Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reproductive rights and the Cotton-Pryor Senate race

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 7:44 AM

click to enlarge COTTON: Co-sponsored bill that could ban certain forms of birth control.
  • COTTON: Co-sponsored bill that could ban certain forms of birth control.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, you may remember, was a co-sponsor of the "Life at Conception Act," a so-called personhood measure which would give full constitutional rights to each "preborn human person" at the "moment of fertilization. In addition to being a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade, the bill (likely unconstitutional) could ban certain forms of birth control such as IUDs or the morning-after pill. (It could also potentially force women into dangerous pregnancies and to deliver babies that can't survive outside the womb, or force families in situations like this to keep a braindead woman on life support). 

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent speculates that Democratic Senate candidates may try to make this a wedge issue to help them appeal to women: 

The issue isn’t being discussed at all by Washington prognosticators these days. But you can bet that some of the most hard fought Senate races this fall will feature big fights over “Personhood” measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization.

A number of GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form. Once primary season is over, and the Senate general elections get underway in earnest, you are likely to see Democrats attack Republicans over the issue — broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Dems have used to their advantage in the past.

As Sargent notes, this won't necessarily be something Democrats focus on in a state like Arkansas: 

It’s more likely that Dems will make an issue of this in states like North Carolina, Montana, Iowa, and Michigan than Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana, but keep an eye out for this. One model to look to is the 2012 Virginia Senate race, when Democrats savaged Republican George Allen with ads highlighting his support for Personhood legislation, suggesting he would infringe on women’s rights and jeopardize their health in service of a hidebound, reactionary agenda.

Even in Arkansas, Cotton's position here might be seen as too extreme — an outright ban on both all abortion and some forms of contraception. This is a topic that Sen. Mark Pryor might avoid bringing up directly, but it will be interesting to see whether surrogates point out Cotton's extremism on an issue that could help motivate the Democratic base to show up to the polls, and could give second thoughts to moderates and independents taking a look at Cotton.

(Of course, there also other issues, such as Cotton's opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, which Democrats may use to try to appeal to female voters).

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