Kuster, Garcia receive dueling endorsements on abortion

Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2014
Both candidates in the 2nd Congressional District touted endorsements from groups on opposite sides of the abortion issue.

NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire yesterday endorsed U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster for her long-standing support of abortion rights, and Women Speak Out PAC, a partner of the national anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List, endorsed Republican state Rep. Marilinda Garcia.

It’s hardly surprising that a pro-abortion rights group would endorse a Democratic candidate and an anti-abortion group would endorse a Republican, said Linda Fowler, a research professor in Dartmouth College’s government department.

In some elections, endorsements can be a way to introduce voters to a candidate’s ideas or stance on an issue and provide some bona fides, she said. But with relatively few voters aware of what these narrow advocacy groups stand for, there’s really only three reasons for these events, she said.

Garcia in particular benefits, as the Susan B. Anthony List “sounds like it’s good for women and most women won’t know it’s an anti-abortion group,” Fowler said.

But largely, “these endorsements are partly about intensity among activists (and partly about) getting free newspaper coverage.”

“The campaign has been going on a long time and there really isn’t much news,” she said. “Their stances haven’t changed, so that’s not news. The candidates have their themes, but their messages are largely being drowned out by outside groups. This is a way of trying to get some handle on the narrative again. Of course, they’re doing that by bringing in outside groups, but that’s the world we’re in.”

While they had the spotlight, each group took advantage of it to accuse the opposing candidate of extremism.

Kuster, according to the anti-abortion group Women Speak Out, is extreme because she’s “supported taxpayer funding for abortion” and “voted to allow abortions after five months of pregnancy, so late that the baby experiences excruciating pain.”

Garcia, according to NARAL Pro-choice New Hampshire, is extreme for “repeatedly voting to ban all abortions in New Hampshire with no exception for rape, incest or saving the life of the mother (and voting) to send doctors to jail who perform abortions in order to save a mother’s life.”

The group also criticized her for supporting efforts to give “personhood,” or constitutional protections, to fetuses.

When asked to respond to the other side’s attacks on the issue, the candidates had different reactions.

Garcia’s campaign spokesman Kenny Cunningham said the candidate is not focused on abortion, calling it “an issue that has been resolved by our courts.”

Instead, “Marilinda is focused on reforms that reduce the amount of government regulation so small business can flourish and create jobs (and) wants real, patient-centered health care reform that reduces costs and increases access to affordable care,” he said.

When asked during the Republican primary race about the party’s decision to add support for personhood rights for unborn children to the GOP platform, Cunningham said: “Marilinda believes personhood goes beyond the bounds of constructive policy debate on the abortion issue and doesn’t think it’s an effective addition to the platform.”

Kuster’s campaign staff defended her vote against banning abortion after 20 weeks, a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The bill allowed an exemption for victims of rape or incest if the crimes were reported before the abortion, and for some cases of risk to the life and health of the mother, but “would punish doctors with years in jail for violating this ban – even if doing so was in the best interest of the health of the mother,” Rosie Hilmer, Kuster’s campaign spokeswoman, said.

Women Speak Out also criticized Kuster’s opposition to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

The bill – which passed in the House but has been waiting for a Senate committee hearing since January – would have prohibited people using tax credits on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges toward purchasing insurance that included coverage for abortion services, even if an individual also contributed toward the cost of the premium.

Current law already prohibits taxpayer funds for Medicaid and health care for people in the military and Peace Corps from being used for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

An earlier edition of this story incorrectly described the limitations of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.