On the trail: Dems attack after Sununu says ‘I’ve done more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone’

  • FILE— Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu addresses racing fans at a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, July 18, 2021, in Loudon, N.H. Gov. Sununu in a speech in Washington Saturday, April 2, 2022 called Donald Trump “crazy” and joked that if the former Republican president was admitted into a mental hospital “he’s not getting out.” (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) Charles Krupa

For the Monitor
Published: 5/13/2022 6:03:35 PM

It didn’t take long for comments from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu this week highlighting the 24-week abortion ban in the state budget he signed into law to elicit a chorus of criticism from New Hampshire and national Democrats.

Just days after Sununu – in the wake of an unprecedented leak of a U.S. Supreme Court initial draft opinion that indicated the high court’s conservative majority is likely to overturn the landmark half-century-old Roe v. Wade abortion ruling – proclaimed that he would protect access to abortion as governor of New Hampshire, new comments from the governor had many in the Granite State scratching their heads.

Earlier this week, Sununu once again defended the 24-week abortion ban signed into law last year as part of the state budget process. He boasted that he was the first Republican governor in ages to sign such a ban.

“I’m the first governor in 40 years to sign an abortion ban. Republican governors before me never signed that. I’ve done more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone,” he told co-host Greg Corombos on the national podcast “Three Martini Lunch,” in a wide-ranging 45-minute interview. The podcast is produced by the conservative-leaning National Review.

Sununu reiterated his position that his support for a 24-week abortion ban is in line with most Americans and with most states.

Just a week earlier, Sununu – a rare Republican who says he supports abortion rights – emphasized in the days after the Supreme Court leak that “I’m a pro-choice governor and as long as I’m governor, we’re going to remain a pro-choice state.”

That did little to mollify Democratic politicians and officials, who’ve blasted the governor over what they call the “Sununu abortion ban.” Policy riders in the budget written by Republicans included a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation and mandatory ultrasounds for all women before a pregnancy is terminated.

After his most recent comments started grabbing attention on social media Wednesday, Democrats pounced.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party took aim at Sununu, accusing him of catering to the GOP’s “the far-right, anti-choice extremists.”

A headline from a Democratic Governors Association email to supporters read “Gov. Chris Sununu Brags About Signing Abortion Ban Just One Week After Claiming He’s ‘Pro-Choice.’ ”

Democratic Governors Association deputy communications director Sam Newton charged “while Chris Sununu has been caught changing his tune again, the reality is he signed a dangerous abortion ban into law that is too extreme for New Hampshire.”

State Sen. Dr. Tom Sherman, who faces no serious opposition as he runs for this year’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination, claimed that “Sununu has repeatedly shown the women of New Hampshire that he can’t be trusted to stand up for them.”

Sununu spokesman Ben Vihstadt pushed back on the attacks by Democrats.

“Like a majority of Americans, the Governor supports limiting abortions in months 7, 8, and 9 of a pregnancy,” Vihstadt said. “Like virtually every other state, New Hampshire now has laws on the books that limits late-term abortions. Regardless of any Supreme Court decision, that won’t change the fact that these services will remain safe, legal, and accessible in New Hampshire.”

However, New Hampshire is the only state in New England that currently has no abortion protections written into state law. Legislative attempts by Democrats to guarantee abotion rights failed this session in the Republican-controlled legislature.

While Democrats continue to blast the governor on the issue, Sununu could also face some unrest on the far right of his party.

As noted in last week’s column, Marine veteran and businessman Julian Acciard, who was running for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, announced he was dropping out of that race in order to mount a longshot gubernatorial primary challenge against Sununu. And he pointed to Sununu’s “pro-abortion” stance as one of the reasons behind his move.

It seems unlikely the new comments from the governor touting the abortion ban will earn him many points with social conservative voters. Especially with the governor recently reiterating that he’ll sign a bill getting rid of the budget’s ultrasound requirement and including fatal fetal abnormalities as an exception to the 24-week abortion ban. Sununu has also promised to veto a bill passed by Republican state lawmakers to repeal the buffer zone around abortion clinics to shield patients from protesters.

“I think he’s looking for votes and I think he’s playing both sides in the middle,” former state Senate majority leader Bob Clegg told the Monitor. “He’s got both sides angry at him.”

“Normally you don’t get caught, but as we all know, the internet casts a wide net now,” Clegg added.

And longtime conservative activist Fran Wendlebloe argued that the governor “is pro-life when he thinks it’s to his advantage and his pro-choice when it thinks it’s the other way. At some point, it’s going to catch up with him.”

Sununu, in the podcast, acknowledged that he would get attacked from both sides of the abortion issue.

“Democrats will say I’m too pro-life. Folks on the extreme will say I’m too pro-choice,” the governor said. “This is New Hampshire. We’re an in-the-middle-state on this issue. I don’t mean to say I’m in the middle, but I believe in a reasonable ban to be put in place. We did that.”




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