DeSantis Avoids Talking About Banning Abortion at Trace

Former President Donald J. Trump, who struggled to retain support from the anti-abortion movement, has done so criticized Florida's six-week law without saying what limits he might support, leaving Mr. DeSantis countered his reluctance to take the position. The comments, one of his most direct public challenges to the former president so far, show how DeSantis can use his record, which has been praised by anti-abortion activists, to differentiate himself.

“He gave us action, and that's what I was interested in,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, the nonprofit group that hosted Mr. DeSantis on Saturday. “He was extraordinary and historic.”

Democrats fiercely demanded abortion rights in last year's midterms with unexpected success. That leaves some Republicans unsure how to address the issue in 2024.

As Mr. DeSantis travels and visits early nominating states, he talks a little about their abortion laws. When he did, he didn't explicitly tell the audience that the law prohibited the procedure after six weeks.

“We enacted the Heartbeat Protection Act to improve life,” said Mr. DeSantis without elaborating when he addressed a crowd of voters in Iowa earlier this month. He tucked his comments between brief statements about his tax relief efforts and laws that allow Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without training or permits. Speaking at Liberty University, another friendly scene, the day after he signed the ban, Mr DeSantis almost completely avoided subject.

And during discussions with state lawmakers in New Hampshire on Friday, the governor made absolutely no mention of abortion. Privately, lawmakers from the moderate state, which limits abortion after 24 weeks of gestation, said they thought Mr. DeSantis is too extreme for voters in New Hampshire. Many women don't realize they are pregnant at six weeks.

Last spring, Mr. DeSantis and Republican lawmakers in Florida restricted access to the procedure after 15 weeks, with exceptions for fetal abnormalities that were fatal or to save the woman's life. The law is being challenged before the Florida Supreme Court.