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Biden and Trump Address Abortion, Immigration in First Election Debate

Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden participate in their first U.S. presidential campaign debate in Atlanta on June 27, 2024. (Photo: OSV News/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — The first presidential debate on June 27 in Atlanta between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump turned to the topic of abortion about 15 minutes into the hour and a half discussion.

CNN debate moderator Dana Bash brought up the issue by asking Trump if he, as president, would block the abortion medication mifepristone, that the Supreme Court recently preserved access to.

Trump responded by saying, “The Supreme Court just approved the abortion pill,” which is not exactly what they did; the court merely ruled against the standing of a challenger about access to the medication and left the door open to future challenges of it.

He later went on to say that he takes credit for placing “three great Supreme Court justices on the court, and they happened to vote in favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to the states,” adding that he believes in abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Biden criticized the Supreme Court’s decision two years ago in reversing Roe, saying that returning the issue back to the states was “a little like saying we’re going to turn civil rights back to the states, and each state has a different rule.”

When Bash asked Biden if he supports legal limits on how late in a pregnancy a woman could have an abortion, he responded with a muddled description of the court’s Roe decision. “I support Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters. The first time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.”

Trump then falsely accused some Democrats for supporting abortion “after birth,” which Biden came back with: “You’re lying, that is simply not true. … We are not for late-term abortion, period.”

The debate also covered the issue of immigration, with Jake Tapper, the other CNN moderator, asking the candidates: “Why should voters trust you to solve this crisis?”

Trump criticized Biden about migrants who have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, including those who have committed crimes while Biden defended the situation saying his administration has “worked hard” to change what is happening at the border.

Trump also criticized Biden’s administration for ending Title 42, a public health law that the Trump administration used to quickly send migrants back to their home country or Mexico during the pandemic.

“He decided to open up our border, opening up our country to people who are from prisons, people that are from mental institutions,” Trump said, repeating something he has said at rallies, without giving evidence.

Tapper asked Trump if he would fulfill his promise of deporting millions of undocumented immigrants if he wins the election, but Trump sidestepped the question and instead spoke about terrorism and crimes committed by immigrants and arguing the nation was seeing its “worst border in history.”

Biden similarly criticized Trump’s immigration policies when he was president saying that his administration was “taking — separating — babies from their mothers, putting them in cages, making sure they’re — the families were separated. That’s not [the] right way to go.”

The two candidates, set to debate again on Sept. 10, also gave differing views on Ukraine. Biden said Trump would not stand firm against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump argued that Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he had been president.

On the economy, Biden argued, “We have made significant progress from the debacle that was left by President Trump in his last term.”

Trump, criticizing Biden said, “We’re a failing nation, but it’s not going to be failing anymore.”

Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, were asked about their age and ability to serve as president into their 80s, something they both defended as they spoke about their competency and even golf abilities.