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Week in politics: Roe v. Wade and the presidential race; 2 years of Russia's invasion

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're going to turn now to NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: As we just noted, President Trump addresses CPAC today. Nikki Haley isn't there. She is focusing attention on the South Carolina primary. What do you expect?

ELVING: In South Carolina, there's little doubt about the outcome. Polls all show Trump with an enormous lead. He will win the statewide tally, and he may win each of the individual congressional districts as well. That would mean the former governor of the state, Nikki Haley, would get no delegates at all - a shutout. Nonetheless, she has said she will soldier on beyond this particular primary, says she's in it at least to Super Tuesday in March, but we shall see.

Trump, meanwhile, will be in the warm embrace of that CPAC conference that Franco's been talking about - an annual gathering that's been around since the 1970s and has shown interest in different kinds of conservatives over the years. The libertarian candidate for president, Ron Paul, and later his son Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, have been very popular at this convention, but it's very much a Trump show now.

SIMON: Both Trump and Haley say they support efforts to protect in vitro fertilization. Of course, they also both notably celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade. What's the note they're both trying to strike here?

ELVING: Opposition to Roe v. Wade was a major building block in both Haley and Trump's careers, and both have celebrated the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case that overturned it. But this week, the Alabama Supreme Court took advantage of Dobbs to rule that the embryos produced in the process of in vitro fertilization had the legal status of children under Alabama law. So in vitro clinics in Alabama started shutting down, and clinics elsewhere wondered what might be next for them.

Now, this issue highlights the problems with the Dobbs decision and divides the anti-abortion movement itself. Some of the movement's longtime strong backers, such as former Vice President Mike pence, have actually made use of this procedure and are great advocates for it. So yesterday, after days of silence on the subject, Trump came out for IVF and urged the Alabama Legislature to act quickly and protect it. Now, Nikki Haley initially responded to the ruling, saying that she had always considered embryos to be babies, but she shifted as the week went on, saying IVF should remain available.

SIMON: And Ron, if, as the governor of Alabama pledges, the legislature codifies protections for IVF, does the issue fade away?

ELVING: It might. In the current media climate, almost nothing seems to have much staying power anymore, especially if it requires a certain amount of information to understand. On the other hand, many Americans are still trying to sort out how they feel about the issue of abortion themselves and how much of a role the government should have in the reproductive process. So this surprising and jarring moment may reverberate for some time.

SIMON: Two years ago today, Russian troops started their way towards Kyiv. Of course, further support is tied up in the U.S. Congress. What are your thoughts, two years in?

ELVING: The situation in the war zone is not what anyone expected two years ago. The Russian thrust at Kyiv failed utterly, but the effort to occupy the portions of Ukraine nearest to Russia has proven difficult to resist. The loss of human life on both sides has been enormous. And the scale of destruction recalls the worst scenes of the world wars in the 20th century.

Most Americans still support Ukraine and oppose the designs of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, especially in the wake of the death of Navalny and all that has come since. But there is a growing sentiment, especially among Republicans loyal to Trump, and that includes in Congress, that the United States should scale back or even cut off its support for Ukraine and perhaps reduce its commitments to other countries around the world as well. It's a throwback to the America First movement and the attitudes before World War II, and no accident that Trump himself uses that same phrase in his campaign, America First. And it's the reason that aid to Ukraine is still awaiting a vote in the House.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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