Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters turned the tables on Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona during a debate in Phoenix Thursday night when the Democrat tried to paint his challenger as a pro-life extremist.
Democratic lawmakers and candidates nationwide have tried to use the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade to cudgel Republicans over abortion policy.
As most Americans likely understand, Dobbs did not make abortion illegal nationwide, but left the matter up to state law. The justices determined the U.S. Constitution was silent on the issue, and therefore there is no federal constitutional right to obtain an abortion.
In March, prior to the Dobbs ruling, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, or four months into the pregnancy.
There are exceptions when the life of the mother is at risk or she faces a permanent, irreversible health injury if the pregnancy continues, the Associated Press reported.
However, when Roe was overturned, it did present a legal question, currently making its way through the court system, whether Arizona’s complete ban on abortion, except to save the life of the mother — a law dating back to 1901 — is back in effect.
But the issue will ultimately be worked out at the state level. If the court rules the old law applies, the legislature can pass its 15-week limit again, which in itself defied Roe. The 1973 court decision prevented states from restricting abortion until the unborn child was “viable” outside the womb, about 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
At Thursday’s debate, moderator Ted Simons of Arizona PBS asked Kelly if he would codify Roe.
“Of course,” the senator answered, and then proceeded to attack Masters as a radical who wants pretty much a total ban on abortion.
Asked his stance, Masters responded, “I’m pro-life and that means I believe in limits. Now I support exceptions because I don’t believe in being extreme on this issue.”
“Sen. Mark Kelly is the abortion radical. Sen. Kelly in Washington he voted … no, actually, he sponsored; he didn’t just vote for it … he sponsored a bill that would have mandated legal abortion nationwide — get this — up until the moment of birth,” Masters explained.
.@bgmasters: “[Mark Kelly] sponsored a bill that would’ve mandated legal abortion nationwide — get this — up until the moment of birth.”
“The only country in the whole world that support Sen. Kelly’s preferred no limits, extreme abortion policy are China and North Korea.” pic.twitter.com/Hf0AvvsKS2
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 7, 2022
That’s exactly what needed to be said: My opponent’s the radical.
The legislation fell short in the senate, failing to garner even a simple majority, much less overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska did not vote for the bill, though she is a Roe supporter, because she concluded it went “well beyond the precedent established in Roe and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey,” she said in a statement at the time.
“It does not include the Hyde amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortions—and has been the law almost as long as Roe,” Murkowski pointed out.
“It does not include conscience protections for healthcare providers that refuse to perform abortions based on religious beliefs. It explicitly overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the first time. It also allows late-term abortions without any notable restrictions.”
Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also opposed the Women’s Health Protection Act, once again determining the law went too far.
If Democrats couldn’t get Murkowski and Collins on board their bill supposedly codifying Roe, you know it’s radical.
Debate moderator Simons asked Kelly twice what limit he would place on abortions. The lawmaker would not say, other than pointing to Roe. All Roe said is that states could, but in no way had to place limits on abortion around the third trimester of the pregnancy.
Kelly also claimed that late-term abortions only happen when there is a “serious problem” in the pregnancy. However, in what perhaps was a Freudian slip, he added, “Often the child is wanted.” In other words, a serious problem with the baby or mother’s health is not always the reason a late-term abortion occurs.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler looked into the matter and found late-term abortions are, in fact, rare in the U.S., with just 1.3 percent happening at 21 weeks or later. But he calculated that means at least 10,000 do occur per year “when medical technology makes it increasingly possible to save a premature infant.”
Most, but not all, occur because defects are detected in the baby or the mother faces severe health risks.
Kessler noted the Women’s Health Protection Act language allows abortions up to the time of birth when the “health” of the mother is at issue.
Critics say that is an exception that you can drive a Mack truck through, with factors like emotional, psychological or familial health cited as the reason for the late-term abortion.
Simons asked Masters at what point in the pregnancy he would want to see abortions made illegal.
“Last year Arizona passed a law that limits abortions after 15 weeks. I support that law,” Masters said. “That’s where Arizonans find a reasonable place to draw the line.”
“I support limits at the federal level too. Sen. Lindsey Graham has proposed a 15-week [ban] with the common exceptions, and I support that,” he added.
Graham’s bill makes exceptions allowing for late-term abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life or “physical health” of the mother is at risk.
“I believe at a certain point everybody of good conscience knows at five months, six months — my gosh, seven months — that is a baby and we shouldn’t be killing babies for no reason when they can survive outside the womb and that’s not what [Kelly’s] legislation did,” Masters said.
Masters showed how it’s done: Republicans are not the radicals when it comes to abortion policy; Democrats are.
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