August 18, 2010

Abortion: Primary Hot-Button Issue

Abortion has been a hot-button issue in the primaries this summer, fueling negative campaigning in several races.

Prior to losing the U.S. Senate Republican primary in Kansas to Rep. Jerry Moran on Aug. 3, fellow GOP Rep. Todd Tiahrt criticized Moran for votes he cast on abortion legislation as a state senator two decades ago, the Associated Press reported. A Tiahrt radio ad alleged that Moran has “voted against parents’ rights and responsibilities” and “refused to co-sponsor the Right to Life Act.” In response, Moran reiterated his opposition to abortion, saying, “I consider myself pro-life because [of] my religious beliefs, my faith, the way I grew up,” the AP reported.

A different ad targeted several candidates in the GOP primary for Kansas’ 4th Congressional District seat (currently held by Tiahrt, who is not seeking re-election).  According to The Wichita Eagle, the pro-life organization Common Sense Issues Kansas produced a radio spot accusing state Sen. Jean Schodorf of “refus[ing] to sign a pledge against taxpayer funding of abortion” and candidate Wink Hartman of wanting “to give taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood.” Mike Pompeo, who received the endorsement of Kansans for Life, went on to win the Aug. 3 primary, the Wichita paper reported.

In Georgia’s Aug. 10 Republican primary runoff, former congressman Nathan Deal narrowly defeated former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel towin the GOP’s nomination for governor after a heated series of exchanges over abortion, the AP reported.  According to the wire service, Deal “opposes abortions except where the life of the mother is at stake,” while “Handel supports additional exceptions for cases of rape and incest.”  Early in the campaign, the AP story said, Deal attacked Handel for voting in 2005, when she was chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, to provide over $425,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood. A counterattack came fromRedState blogger and Handel supporter Erick Erickson, who accused Deal of voting to give Planned Parenthood $500 million in federal funds for “actual abortions” during his first term in the U.S. Congress, according to theChattanooga Times Free Press. (On his Peach Pundit blog, Erickson later retracted the statement and apologized to the Deal campaign.) Amid the charges and countercharges, both Deal and Handel described themselves as pro-life, with Deal attributing his position to discussions with “my minister, friends who are religious advisors and friends within the pro-life community,” according to the AP wire.

Controversy over Handel’s position on abortion continued through late July, when the executive director of Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) told Politicothat Handel would have allowed the abortion of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s youngest child, Trig, who was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. Handel angrily denied the claim and told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that GRTL’s leadership should resign. Palin subsequently endorsed Handel and defended the candidate’s anti-abortion position, saying, “Despite what they are throwing at her, Karen is pro-life and will walk the walk,” The Augusta Chronicle reported.

The Pew Forum’s abortion resource page includes an overview of the abortion debate in America, a history of key U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the issue and religious groups’ official positions on abortion.

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