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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event in Rochester, N.H., June 1, 2023. The governor's recent comments against abortion were deemed insufficient for pro-life voters by Marjorie Dannensfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national pro-life group. (OSV News photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) -- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida traded barbs with a national pro-life group July 31 over comments he made on enacting abortion policy at the federal level.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a leading national pro-life group that works to elect anti-abortion candidates to public office, said recent interview comments by the Florida governor were “unacceptable” to the pro-life movement.

In a recent interview on a podcast hosted by former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, DeSantis did not directly answer a question as to whether he would support a federal ban on abortion, instead saying, “I’ll always come down on the side of life. I’m proud to be pro-life, and I’ll be a pro-life president.”

“We are running on doing things that I know I can accomplish,” DeSantis said, adding, “But I really believe, right now in our society, it’s really a bottom-up movement and that’s where we’ve had most success -- Iowa, South Carolina, Florida.”

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida traded barbs with a national pro-life group July 31 over comments he made on enacting abortion policy at the federal level.

SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser issued a statement July 31 arguing that DeSantis’ comments were insufficient for pro-life voters.

“A pro-life president has a duty to protect the lives of all Americans. He should be the National Defender of Life,” Dannenfelser said. “The American people have expressed a clear consensus for protecting babies in the womb at least by the point they can feel pain at 15 weeks, while allowing states to enact stronger protections. The pro-life movement and the American people deserve a president who will boldly advocate this consensus and will work to gather the votes necessary in Congress.”

Dannenfelser argued that DeSantis’ “dismissal of this task is unacceptable to pro-life voters.”

“A consensus is already formed,” she said. “Intensity for it is palpable and measurable. There are many pressing legislative issues for which Congress does not have the votes at the moment, but that is not a reason for a strong leader to back away from the fight. This is where presidential leadership matters most.”

“While 25 states have enacted laws to protect unborn children in this new era, the remaining 25 states offer few to no protections,” she continued. “These states account for at least 600,000 or two-thirds of abortions annually. These unborn children and their mothers deserve to be served and need an advocate in the White House who will work tirelessly to protect them.”:

In a statement provided to OSV News, DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said the governor “delivers results and acts, especially when it comes to protecting life.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said recent interview comments by the Florida governor were “unacceptable” to the pro-life movement.

“He did so in Florida by signing the heartbeat bill and will be a pro-life president,” Griffin said. “He does not kowtow to DC interest groups. This unjustified attack on him is another example of the DC political games that have seen conservatives falter in Washington while Governor DeSantis has produced unmatched conservative victories in Florida.”

SBA list has not yet endorsed a candidate for president but previously said they will back one who supports a federal minimum 15-week limit for abortion.

Although DeSantis has signed a six-week ban during his tenure, it is not currently in effect in Florida due to ongoing legal challenges. Florida currently permits abortion up to 15-weeks of pregnancy.

A July 31 New York Times/Siena College poll showed DeSantis trailing former President Donald Trump in their party’s primary by a 37% margin.

Other Republican 2024 contenders also pushed back on DeSantis’ comments.

Former Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a tweet linking to the SBA List statement that if he were president, pro-life Americans would “have a champion in the White House!”

“In the Dobbs decision, the question of abortion was returned to the states AND the American people,” Pence wrote. “I will always champion protections for the unborn in states across the Country and in our Nation’s Capital!”

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., wrote on Twitter that “Republicans should not be retreating on life.”

“We need a national 15-week limit to stop blue states from pushing abortion on demand,” Scott wrote, adding SBA List “defends the most fundamental right: life.”

“Without life, nothing else matters,” Scott said. “It’s not a special interest. It’s the only interest.”

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