Democrats’ national strategy of trying to appeal to female voters by criticizing Republican positions on abortion has arrived in the 27th Congressional District, highlighting an issue that has not received much attention in this race.
Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, a pro-choice Democrat, is attacking Republican opponent Chris Collins for his statement during the primary that he is “100 percent” pro-life.
An ad from Hochul’s campaign uses footage from a June television interview in which Collins said: “I will have a 100 percent pro-life voting record.”
From that statement, which the Collins campaign amended this week, the Hochul campaign bases the ad’s other claims – that Collins will “end funding” for Planned Parenthood and that he would “ban abortion” in cases of rape or incest.
The ad’s central claims are mostly accurate, while the political rhetoric it uses will be judged differently by each voter.
The district has a greater Republican voter advantage than any other in New York, but Hochul must think this is a winning issue for her.
Hochul’s spokesman, Francis Thomas, said Collins’ position is “extreme” and is an indicator of how he will vote on bills affecting reproductive rights.
Collins campaign adviser Christopher M. Grant, meanwhile, walked back the “100 percent” statement by Collins to allow for some exceptions such as rape and incest, and labeled Hochul’s position “pretty radical for the 27th District.”
EMILY’s List, a pro-Democrat, pro-choice organization that supports women in politics, has designated Hochul one of two “priority candidates” in New York, because of the tight race in the 27th District.
Collins has not talked about social issues much during the campaign, other than his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to criticize Hochul for voting against the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would impose fines and prison terms on doctors who perform abortions for women who want to select the sex of their babies.
That bill was “designed by extreme ideologues in the Republican Party to criminalize doctors,” Thomas said, adding later that “it’s another partisan attack on women’s rights framed in a way to try to make it popular.”
Collins said he will have a “100 percent pro-life voting record” while he was competing against David Bellavia in a Republican primary. Bellavia had received the endorsement of the New York Right to Life Committee and was trying to raise the issue to create a distinction between him and Collins, which prompted the Collins declaration of his “100 percent” pro-life position.
Since the Hochul television ad has aired, the National Right to Life Committee has aired a radio ad supporting Collins.
Hochul’s ad makes several claims:
Claim: “Listen to Chris Collins,” the announcer says, before a clip of Collins saying: “And I will have a 100 percent pro-life voting record.”
Fact: This claim is accurate. Collins said this during a June interview with WGRZ, when he was campaigning in the GOP primary against Bellavia. Not mentioned in the ad is a Buffalo News article from June 20 that also quotes Collins saying he will vote “100 percent” for pro-life legislation and a City & State report from June 19 that quotes Collins campaign manager Michael A. Kracker saying Collins will have a “100 percent pro-life voting record.”
Claim: “Chris Collins promised to put the government in charge of women’s health care decisions.”
Fact: The Hochul campaign’s justification for using this claim is by comparing his words to a national standard by a leading pro-life group.
Taking his “100 percent” statement, the campaign then assumes that he agrees with the National Right to Life Committee’s position 100 percent. The committee, which endorses candidates and calls itself the “largest and by far most effective” single-issue pro-life political action committee, believes that abortion should be permitted only when the life of the mother is at stake.
This claim is rhetorical and is subject to interpretation.
Claim: “He would ban abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.”
Fact: Collins’ past statements tend to back up that assertion. But this week, the campaign said Collins favors exceptions in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is threatened, Grant said.
Past interviews or statements reflecting Collins’ current position on abortion, as stated by Grant, were unavailable from his campaign.
Claim: “And Chris Collins would end funding for Planned Parenthood, too.”
Fact: This claim is accurate. Collins would vote to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Grant said.
Claim: “Chris Collins. He says he wants less government, but he would put the government in charge of health care decisions for women.”
Fact: Thes claim is rhetorical and will be interpreted differently depending upon the viewer’s opinions on abortion and other government involvement in health care.