Former President Donald Trump announced his stance on abortion policy Monday, while President Joe Biden is set to announce a new plan to forgive some student loan debt. 

Trump declines to endorse a national abortion ban

Former President Donald Trump said he believes abortion limits should be left to the states, in a video released Monday declining to endorse a national ban after months of mixed messages and speculation.

“Many people have asked me what my position is on abortion and abortion rights," Trump said in the video posted on his Truth Social site. “My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint: The states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state."

Trump, in the video, did not say when in pregnancy he believes abortion should be banned — declining to endorse a national cutoff that would have been used as a cudgel by Democrats ahead of the November election. But his endorsement of the patchwork approach leaves him open to being attached to the strictest proposed state legislation, which President Joe Biden and his reelection campaign have already been working to do.

Anti-abortion rights activists expressed keen disappointment that Trump didn't go further.

In the video, he again took credit for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end Roe v. Wade, saying that he was “proudly the person responsible for the ending” of the constitutional right to an abortion, and thanking the conservative justices who overturned it by name.

While he, again, articulated his support for three exceptions — in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk — he went on to describe the current legal landscape, in which different states have different restrictions following the court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022, which upended the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“Many states will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that’s what they will be," he said. “At the end of the day, it's all about will of the people.”

The announcement drew immediate condemnation from SBA Pro-Life America, one of the country's most prominent groups opposed to abortion rights.

“We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position,” said the group's president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “Unborn children and their mothers deserve national protections and national advocacy from the brutality of the abortion industry. The Dobbs decision clearly allows both states and Congress to act.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump's congressional backers and supporter of a 15-week national ban, said he “respectfully” disagreed with Trump over abortion being an issue for the states. Mike Pence — a staunch abortion opponent who served as Trump's vice president, challenged him for this year's GOP nomination and has said he won't endorse him — took to X to call the stance “a slap in the face to the millions of pro-life Americans” who have previously backed Trump.

Biden's campaign was quick to seize on the moment, with spokesperson Ammar Moussa posting on X that Trump was “endorsing every single abortion ban in the states, including abortion bans with no exceptions ... and he’s bragging about his role in creating this hellscape.”

In a statement, Biden said Trump has played a part in being “responsible for creating the cruelty and the chaos that has enveloped America since the Dobbs decision." It is a situation he said is reflected in women “being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to go to court to seek permission for the medical attention they need, and left to travel hundreds of miles for health care.”

In a statement, Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, expressed confidence that the voters who “clearly rejected anti-abortion politics” in other post-Dobbs elections will “do the same with Donald Trump and his cronies in 2024.”

In a Biden campaign call with reporters, Texas mother Kaitlyn Kash described her need to obtain out-of-state care after losing one pregnancy, then her difficulty in receiving a “dilation and curettage” procedure after another successful delivery, following the Dobbs decision — situations she laid at Trump's feet.

“What I went through didn't need to happen, but it did because of Donald Trump,” Kash said.

Biden's campaign also went up with an ad featuring Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman they said “nearly died twice after she was denied care for a miscarriage because of the state’s abortion ban — a ban that was only possible because Donald Trump overturned Roe v. Wade.”

Trump had suggested last month in a radio interview that he was leaning toward supporting a national abortion ban at around 15 weeks of pregnancy, but, at the same time, seemed reluctant to embrace a federal prohibition.

Republican-led states have ushered in a wave of new restrictions following the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade. More than a dozen GOP-controlled states have banned abortion outright, while others have outlawed the procedure on increasingly diminishing timelines.

Other reproductive-related procedures have faced restrictions, including in vitro fertilization, which quickly became a talking point in the campaign after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled this year that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law. Trump said he strongly supports IVF availability. Alabama lawmakers and Republican Gov. Kay Ivey agreed to protect IVF providers from legal liability.

Democrats believe the fight over abortion rights helps them at the polls and have outperformed expectations in elections since. Voters in seven states have sided with abortion rights supporters on ballot measures, and abortion is expected to be on the ballot in more states this year, including Florida, Maryland and New York.

Trump has tried to thread the needle on abortion throughout the campaign, calling himself the “most pro-life president in American history" but also blaming GOP candidates who did not allow for exceptions for the party’s 2022 losses.

In the video, Trump told Republicans that they must "follow your heart on this issue. But remember, you must also win elections to restore our culture and, in fact, to save our country, which is currently and very sadly a nation in decline.”

Instead, he has tried to paint Democrats as “the radical ones on this position.”

Democrats and Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, have been spotlighting the issue as they work to draw a contrast with Trump.

Polling has consistently shown that most Americans believe abortion should be legal through the initial stages of pregnancy. About half of U.S. adults said abortions should be permitted at the 15-week mark, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted last June.

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the vast majority of abortions from 2012 to 2021 were performed within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision established the constitutional right to abortion until the time of viability, at around 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Abortions later in pregnancy are rare and are often performed due to serious fetal abnormalities, when the life of the mother is at risk, or when women have faced significant delays accessing the procedure, according to the health policy research firm KFF.

Biden to announce student loan plan

President Joe Biden is expected to announce his latest effort to broaden student loan relief next week for new categories of borrowers, according to three people familiar with the plans, nearly a year after the Supreme Court foiled his administration’s first attempt to cancel debt for millions who attended college.

Biden will detail the plan Monday in Madison, Wis., where the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin is located. The actual federal regulations outlining who would qualify to get their student loan debt reduced or eliminated are not expected to be released then, said the people, who were granted anonymity to detail a proposal not yet made public.

Much of the specifics that Biden will discuss Monday have long been telegraphed through a negotiated rulemaking process at the Department of Education, which has worked for months to hash out the new categories of borrowers. The president announced immediately after the Supreme Court decision that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona would undertake the process because he would have the power, under the Higher Education Act, to waive or compromise student loan debt in specific cases.

Still, the effort seeks to make good on Biden’s promise after the Supreme Court struck down his initial plan in June — which is a $400 billion proposal to cancel or reduce federal student loan debt that a majority of justices insisted needed congressional approval. Biden called that decision a “mistake” and “wrong.”

And the fresh announcement on student loan relief, a vital issue for younger voters, could help energize parts of Biden's political coalition who have become disillusioned over his job performance — people whose support the president will need to defeat presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump this year.

The plan that Biden will detail would expand federal student loan relief to new yet-targeted categories of borrowers through the Higher Education Act, which administration officials believe puts it on a stronger legal footing than the sweeping proposal that was killed by a 6-3 court majority last year.

The planned announcement from Biden was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

One of the categories of people who are expected to qualify under the new proposal is those with financial hardship, the people said. Another category is likely to include borrowers whose student loan balances have ballooned significantly because of accrued interest, causing them to owe more than they initially borrowed. Another potential category would relieve debt for borrowers who attended college programs that are considered “low-value."

“This new path is legally sound,” Biden said then. “It’s going to take longer, but, in my view, it’s the best path that remains to providing for as many borrowers as possible with debt relief.”

Biden's latest attempt at cancellation is expected to be smaller and more targeted than his original plan, which would have canceled up to $20,000 in loans for more than 40 million borrowers. Details of the new plan have come into focus in recent months as the Education Department brought its ideas to a panel of outside negotiators with an interest in higher education, ranging from students to loan servicers.

Through that process, the agency laid out five categories of borrowers who would be eligible to get some or all of their federal loans canceled. The plan is focused on helping those with the greatest need for relief, including many who might otherwise never repay their loans.

Among those targeted for help are those whose unpaid interest has snowballed beyond the size of the original loan. The proposal would reset their balances back to the initial balance by erasing up to $10,000 or $20,000 in interest, depending on a borrower's income.

Borrowers who have been paying down their student loans for decades would get all remaining debt erased under the department's plan. Loans used for a borrower's undergraduate education would be canceled if they have been in repayment for at least 20 years. For other types of federal loans, it's 25 years.

The plan would automatically cancel loans for those who went to for-profit college programs deemed “low-value.” Borrowers would be eligible for cancellation if, while they attended the program, the average federal student loan payment among graduates was too high compared to their average salary.

Those who are eligible for other types of cancellation but haven't applied would automatically get relief. It would apply to Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Borrower Defense to Repayment, programs that have been around for years but require infamously difficult paperwork.

Under pressure from advocates, the department also added a category for those facing “hardship.” It would offer cancellation to borrowers considered highly likely to be in default within two years. Additional borrowers would be eligible for relief under a wide-ranging definition of financial hardship.

A series of hearings to craft the rule wrapped up in February, and the draft is now under review. Before it can be finalized, the Education Department would need to issue a formal proposal and open it to a public comment period.

The latest attempt at cancellation joins other targeted initiatives, including those aimed at public service workers and low-income borrowers. Through those efforts, the Biden administration says it has canceled $144 billion in student loans for almost 4 million Americans.

Independent pharmacies, patients and lawmakers take steps to rein in PBMs

Even as prescription drug costs have skyrocketed in recent years, Hart Pharmacy in Cincinnati is getting less money per prescription, costing the pharmacy tens of thousands of dollars each year. Third-generation pharmacist and owner Sarah Priestly said costs associated with pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, forced her to cut back hours for her staff of 16.

“For now, we’re OK, but we’re making harder decisions than we’ve ever had to,” Priestly said.

PBMs are companies that control access to prescription drugs by negotiating drug prices with drugmakers and deciding how much insurers pay pharmacies for medicines and services.

PBMs have become an integral, but poorly understood, component of the American health care system.

They were designed to bring down health care costs. Drugmakers want their drugs listed on PBMs’ formularies, which determine which drugs are covered by insurance. Pharmacies want to be listed in-network, which gives them access to more patients. In exchange, both agree to offer discounts on drug prices.

A growing chorus of pharmacists, patients and lawmakers claim PBMs instead seek to maximize their own profits.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he gets several calls a week from patients and independent pharmacists struggling due to PBM policies.

The heart of the issue, Yost said, was the market dominance of three major PBMs: CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Optum. Together, the three hold 79% of market share.

All three companies are linked to their own respective insurance company and retail or online pharmacy.