Trump tells anti-abortion activists to stay united for 2020

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the National Association of REALTORS Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo, Friday, May 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump distanced himself from Alabama’s restrictive new abortion law by laying out differing personal views even as he urged anti-abortion activists to stay united heading into the 2020 election.

In a series of tweets about abortion, Trump did not state whether he was for or against the Alabama law, which forbids the procedure in almost all circumstances, including cases of rape and incest.

But a senior administration official said Sunday that the president is troubled by new state laws that seek to imprison doctors who perform abortions.

The official said Trump wanted to make clear that one can oppose abortion, as he does, but still agree to allow it when rape or incest is involved, or when the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Trump’s reasoning.

Trump tweeted late Saturday that gains by anti-abortion activists will “rapidly disappear” if, as he put it, “we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one.”

As he heads into re-election season, the president is trying to walk a fine line between a conservative base that favors criminalizing access to abortion and potentially angering women who already are skeptical of him.

Disagreement among Republicans is becoming apparent over Alabama’s law, and Trump sees Democrats taking advantage of that.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the top Republican in the Democratic-controlled chamber, opposed the law, saying he supports exceptions for rape and incest and serious risk to the woman’s life. Evangelist Pat Robertson, meanwhile, said the law is too “extreme” and not the best vehicle to attempt to force the Supreme Court to revisit — and possibly overturn — Roe v. Wade, the high court’s 1973 ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.