Ronald Reagan on Abortion

President of the U.S., 1981-1989; Republican Governor (CA)


1984 Mexico City Policy: no abortion funding abroad

Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a policy regarding non-governmental organization (NGO) funding and abortion named after the city in which it was announced. The Mexico City Policy--called the "Global Gag Rule" by political opponents--was introduced by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1984 and makes "neither performing nor actively promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other nations" conditions of receiving federal funding for any NGO. Rescinding or reinstating this policy has become a tradition when party control of the White House changes. After being instituted in 1984 by Reagan, President Bill Clinton (D) rescinded the policy on January 22, 1993. Exactly nine years later, President George W. Bush (R) reinstated the policy, only to have in rescinded by President Barack Obama (D) on January 23, 2009.
Source: Ballotpedia.org coverage of 2017 Trump transition , Jan 27, 2017

2001: Nancy pushed Bush on stem cell research for Alzheimers

In April of 2001, a piece of writing turned up in the Oval Office. Describing what she called a "wrenching family journey," the author urged me to support the "miracle possibilities" of embryonic stem cell research to provide cures for people like her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimer's. She closed, "Mr. President, I have some personal experience regarding the many decisions you face each day. I'd be very grateful if you would take my thoughts and prayers into your consideration on this critical issue. Most sincerely, Nancy Reagan."

Many felt the federal government had a responsibility to fund medical research that might help save the lives of people like President Reagan. Others argued that supporting the destruction of human embryos could take us off a moral cliff toward an uncaring society that devalued life. The contrast was stark, and I faced a difficult decision.

Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.106-107 , Nov 9, 2010

Instituted global gag order on family planning

In Kazakhstan, I visited a small women's-wellness center funded through US foreign aid. Because of the unavailability of contraception, abortion had become a common form of family planning under communism. The Clinton Administration's policy was to make abortion "safe, legal and rare." We worked to discourage abortion and minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by providing aid for family planning and improved maternal health. This policy contradicted the global gag rule that had been imposed by President Reagan, continued by Bush and rescinded by Bill on the second day of his Presidency (later reinstated by George W. Bush). The doctors at the Almaty clinic told me that the rates of both abortion and maternal deaths were decreasing, further proof that our practical policy was more effective at making abortion rare than the Republicans' more visceral anticontraception approach.
Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p.431 , Nov 1, 2003

Opposed abortion, on fundamentalist grounds

One focus of the Reagan administration from the beginning was an agenda of social issues ranging from opposition to abortion to support for mandatory prayer in the public schools. Much of the social agenda of the conservative fundamentalist supporters of the president was adopted by the executive branch, but Reagan had little success in gaining its acceptance by Congress.
Source: Grolier Encyclopedia on-line, “The Presidency” , Dec 25, 2000

Appointed Justices with intent making Court less political

Changing the Court through appointments is a failed tactic. Republican presidents have appointed Justice after Justice with the avowed intention of changing the Court's direction. That has not worked. Most of those appointed turn out not to be restrained or start that way but then, having no firm judicial philosophy, migrate to the left. Presidents Reagan and Bush, who quite deliberately tried to bring the Court back to a judicial rather than a political role, had five appointments, three of whom voted to retrain Roe v. Wade. Now that Bill Clinton has made two appointments, the Court is certain to be activist on the cultural left well into the next century.

Any more serious efforts to limit the power of the courts will run in to the familiar refrain that this would threaten our liberties. To the contrary, it is now clear that it is the courts that threaten our liberty--the liberty to govern ourselves--more profoundly than does any legislation.

Source: Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert Bork, p.114-115 , May 31, 1996

Allowed abortion as CA Gov.; didn’t push pro-life as Pres.

Reagan was not as obsessive about anti-abortion legislation as he often seemed. Early in his California governorship he had signed a permissive abortion bill that has resulted in more than a million abortions. Afterward, he inaccurately blamed this outcome on doctors, saying that they had deliberately misinterpreted the law. When Reagan ran for president, he won backing from pro-life forces by advocating a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother. Reagan’s stand was partly a product of political calculation, as was his tactic after he was elected of addressing the annual pro-life rally held in Washington by telephone so that he would not be seen with the leaders of the movement on the evening news. While I do not doubt Reagan’s sincerity in advocating an anti-abortion amendment, he invested few political resources toward obtaining this goal.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 812 , Jul 2, 1991

An unborn child is a living human being

I call America--a good nation, a moral people--to charitable but realistic consideration of the terrible cost of abortion on demand. To those who say this violates a woman's right to control of her own body: Can they deny that now medical evidence confirms the unborn child is a living human being entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all Federal funding for abortion and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense. But with that one exception, let us look to those others in our land who cry out for children to adopt. I pledge to you tonight I will work to remove barriers to adoption and extend full sharing in family life to millions of Americans so that children who need homes can be welcomed to families who want them and love them.
Source: Pres. Reagan's 1988 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 25, 1988

15 million unborn children: ten times than all US wars

The tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade" is a good time for us to pause and reflect. Our nationwide policy of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy was neither voted for by our people nor enacted by our legislators--not a single state had such unrestricted abortion before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973. But the consequences of this judicial decision are now obvious: since 1973, more than 15 million unborn children have had their lives snuffed out by legalized abortions. That is over ten times the number of Americans lost in all out nation's wars.
Source: Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, p. 15 , Jan 1, 1984

Dred Scott took more than a decade to overturn

Despite the formidable obstacles before us, we must not lose heart. This is not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court decision that denied the value of certain human lives. The "Dred Scott" decision of 1857 was not overturned in a day, or a year, or even a decade. At first, only a minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters; but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed. They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen, to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply engrained in the hearts of our people to remain suppressed.
Source: Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, p. 15 , Jan 1, 1984

Decision affects two lives: mother and unborn child

I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives--the lives of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Why else do we call a pregnant woman a mother?

Medical practice confirms at every step the correctness of thes moral sensibilities. Modern medicine treats the unborn child as a patient. Medical pioneers have made great breakthroughs in treating the unborn--for genetic problems, vitamin deficiencies irregular heart rhythms, and other medical conditions.

The real question today is not when human life begins, but What is the value of human life? The abortionists who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether than tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law--the same right we have.

Source: Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, p. 15 , Jan 1, 1984

Abortion on demand must be outlawed

Abortion on demand now takes the lives of up to one and a half million unborn children a year. Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must never rest until it does.
Source: Speech in Orlando Florida , Mar 8, 1983

Abortion on demand does emotional harm

Reagan said, “Now I don’t have to tell you that this puts us in opposition to, or at least out of step with, a prevailing attitude of many who have turned to a modern-day secularism.”

The most disturbing evidence of this attitude was Washington’s funding of clinics that provided “birth control drugs and devices to underage girls without the knowledge of their parents.” Sex was being secularized. “Are we to believe that something so sacred can be looked upon as a purely physical thing with no potential for emotional and psychological harm?“ Apparently, yes, for that cynicism extended to the womb:

”Abortion on demand“ now takes the lives of up to one and a half million unborn children a year. Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must never rest until it does. Unless and until it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be protected.

Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.472-473 , Mar 8, 1983

As CA governor, reluctantly signed Therapeutic Abortion bill

In May 1967, the Therapeutic Abortion Bill began to take shape. It was a measure to allow pregnant women to terminate embryos prejudicial to their “physical or mental health.” Reagan had to admit that he agreed with “the moral principle of self-defense.” If 100,000 California women were desperate enough to undergo illegal abortions every year, he could at least make it safer for some of them.

He signed it into law. Only as abortion became an extension of welfare, would he wish he had paid more head to the bill’s manipulative language. The very word “Therapeutic” was a medical euphemism, sanitizing essentially bloody procedures. It defined “mental health” as at-risk if a pregnant teen went out and smashed windows. In common with the more liberal laws it was to spawn at state and federal levels, the Act ignored the feelings of fathers.

Reagan was left with a sense of guilt. “If there is a question as to whether there is life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life.”

Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.351-352 , May 1, 1967

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Abortion.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Ronald Reagan.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Ronald Reagan.
Other past presidents on Abortion: Ronald Reagan on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

Political Parties:
Republican Party
Democratic Party
Libertarian Party
Green Party
Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022