Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. flip-flopped on abortion this weekend, first stating that he would support a three-month federal abortion ban but later appearing to walk back that position.

On Sunday morning while at the Iowa State Fair, which was attended by several other presidential candidates, Kennedy told a reporter that he would sign a national abortion ban after three months of pregnancy.

“Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting that child,” Kennedy said. “I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the woman during the first three months of life.”

When pressed further on whether he would go against the Democratic Party’s unlimited abortion stance and sign a federal three-month abortion ban into law, Kennedy responded: “Yes, I would.”

“I’m for medical freedom, I think individuals ought to be able to make their own choices,” Kennedy said while adding that “at some point you could say, I would personally not, but I think the states have a right to protect a child, once that child becomes viable.”

However, later that day his campaign reversed that position, unequivocally stating that Kennedy “does not support legislation banning abortion.”

According to the statement from “Team Kennedy,” published on his campaign website, “Mr. Kennedy misunderstood a question posed to him by an NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair.”

“Mr. Kennedy’s position on abortion is that it is always the woman’s right to choose,” the statement added.

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Pro-life response 

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national pro-life group, initially praised Kennedy’s abortion stance in contrast with President Joe Biden’s as more “aligned with the consensus of the people today.”

After the Kennedy campaign’s reversal, the group issued a follow-up statement Monday, calling for Kennedy to personally clarify his abortion stance.

“It seems clear someone told Kennedy to step back in line,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. “Today’s Democratic Party tolerates no debate on abortion, strictly enforcing a platform of abortion on demand right up to birth and paid for by taxpayers.” 

“Candidates must be allowed to take morally sound, politically smart positions that align with the people,” Dannenfelser went on. “The voters deserve to hear directly from Kennedy on where he really stands given the conflicting statements from him versus his campaign.”

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life scientific research group, unborn babies can feel pain by at least 15 weeks’ gestation and possibly as early as 12 weeks (three months).

Record on abortion 

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A Catholic, and reportedly a regular Mass attendee, Kennedy, 69, supports access to abortion but has called the taking of a preborn life a “tragedy.”

In June, during a “town hall” with a New Hampshire television news station, Kennedy said: “I’m not going to put myself in a position that I’m telling a woman to bring a child to term that she doesn’t want; I don’t think it’s a good solution.”

“I don’t think the government has any business telling people what they can and cannot do with their bodies,” Kennedy said. “I think every abortion is a tragedy and as I said I came from a family that was very, very divided on this issue, I’ve seen pictures of third-term abortions and I’m appalled by them and will do everything I can to end those in other ways, but I think the worst solution is if the government is involved in decisions that should belong to a woman.”

Catholic family history

Kennedy is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the first Catholic president in U.S. history, John F. Kennedy. Both Kennedys were involved in politics before abortion was the national political issue it is today.

Though still a long shot, his campaign has gained considerable traction, running on limited government, environmentalism, and support for free speech. A Harvard Harris poll from late July found 62% favoring Biden, with Kennedy coming in second with 16%.

Though Kennedy made several posts on social media Monday morning, he has not personally addressed the abortion question since his initial comments.

The Kennedy campaign did not respond to CNA’s request for comment by the time of publication.