Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears to surprise his running mate with his position on abortion

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said in an interview released Wednesday that he would allow women to have abortions at full-term if that was their choice, the latest answer he has given on abortion policy — and one that provoked a surprised reaction from his running mate.

During an interview with podcaster Sage Steele, the former ESPN host asked Kennedy what the limit should be for women to have an abortion. “Should there be a limit or are you saying all the way up to full-term, a woman has a right to have an abortion?” she said.

Kennedy answered that he doesn’t think anyone would want to do that at eight months of pregnancy, but abortion should be out of the hands of the government and in the hands of women.

Steele continued to push Kennedy, asking if he agrees with the Roe v. Wade standard or with abortion being left up to the states, and Kennedy reiterated that the decision should not lie with the states but with the mother.

“Even if it’s full-term,” Kennedy said in response to a follow-up question. “I don’t think it’s ever okay,” he added. When Steele says that would allow late-term abortions, Kennedy said, “I think we have to leave it to the women rather than the state.”

The comments appear to come as a surprise to Nicole Shanahan, Kennedy’s running mate. A week prior to the release of Kennedy’s conversation with Steele, Shanahan was featured in a podcast episode with the host. Steele asked Shanahan if she agreed with Kennedy’s belief that a woman should have the option to have an abortion at full-term, to which Shanahan responded with surprise.

“My understanding with Bobby’s position is that, you know, every abortion is a tragedy, is a loss of life,” Shanahan said. “My understanding is that he absolutely believes in limits on abortion, and we’ve talked about this. I do not think, I don’t know where that came from.”

Nicole Shanahan during a campaign event with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Shanahan went on to say,“That is not my understanding of his position and I think maybe there was a miscommunication there.”

Shanahan, who has not attended an in-person campaign rally since the March announcement that she was joining Kennedy’s ticket, shared her abortion stance in a post on X.

“I will speak personally,” Shanahan wrote. “As a mom, and a person with a womb, I don’t like the feeling of anyone having control over my body. It is coercive. It is wrong. But, I am also a woman that would not feel right terminating a viable life living inside of me, especially if I am both healthy and that baby is healthy. I can hold both beliefs, as someone who believes in the sacredness of life, simultaneously.”

Kennedy has articulated different stances on abortion at times during his campaign for president. During an interview with NBC News in August of last year, Kennedy said if elected, he’d support signing a national abortion ban after the first three months of pregnancy, before his campaign soon walked back the comments.

Kennedy told NBC News, “I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the women during the first three months of life.” Pressed on whether that meant signing a federal ban at 15 or 21 weeks, he said yes.

Kennedy’s campaign soon put out a statement saying that the candidate “misunderstood” repeated questions on the topic.

“Mr. Kennedy misunderstood a question posed to him by an NBC reporter in a crowded, noisy exhibit hall at the Iowa State Fair,” a spokesperson said, clarifying the candidate’s stance on abortion as “always” being the woman’s right to choose. Kennedy “does not support legislation banning abortion,” the campaign added at the time.

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