As Election Day draws near, many Republican candidates in tight races are making public statements in support of women’s reproductive rights that seem to conflict with their records.
Some Republican candidates appear to be trying to neutralize the “war on women” criticisms to narrow the gender voting gap that favors Democrats among women voters.
Iowa’s Joni Ernst, a staunch conservative who narrowly leads Democrat Bruce Braley, said during a recent debate that she supports women’s access to contraception, as well as exceptions to save a woman’s life if abortion were banned.
Braley said Ernst’s words contradicted her policies; her support for a fetal “personhood” amendment, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would make contraception less affordable or even ban it entirely.
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A “personhood” amendment, which defines a fertilized egg as a person, could ban all abortion without any exceptions, as well as many common forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.
Hobby Lobby sets a precedent for unequal contraceptive coverage depending on the religion of a woman’s employer, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean women are no longer guaranteed no-cost birth control through insurance.
Ernst called it “laughable” that Braley would question her, a woman with three daughters, on the issue of contraception.
She said her support for Hobby Lobby “doesn’t mean a woman can’t get reliable, safe birth control. She can still go to her doctor and receive birth control.”
That wouldn’t necessarily be the case if Ernst’s “personhood” amendment had passed. And Ernst’s statements echo other Republican candidates who gloss over affordability issues and suggest the “access” debate is really about whether women are legally allowed to buy birth control at all.
Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner made headlines for advocating over-the-counter birth control while supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Just like Ernst, Gardner supported a “personhood” amendment that he dismissed as a mere “statement” on his “pro-life” principles. Gardner, in a move that confounded supporters and detractors alike, also denied that the measure he supported existed in the first place.
Colorado, where voters will decide on Tuesday whether to pass a “personhood” amendment that could criminalize abortion, boasts two other Republican candidates who have made statements that clash with their records on women’s health.
In one of the closest House races of the year, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) ran an ad that prominently displayed the logo of Planned Parenthood, which “surprised” a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains since Coffman had previously voted to defund the organization.
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has extreme anti-choice views, including support for a fetal “personhood” measure, and he has bragged about his “100 percent pro-life voting record.”
But voters listening to Beauprez on Colorado Public Radio might have thought otherwise given his statements about supporting women’s “choice of whether to use birth control or not,” and “people’s right to choose.”
Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, yet he has run ads that use language about leaving the final decision up to a woman and her doctor.
Brown also co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing any kind of health coverage, including contraception, due to moral objections.