It’s no secret that the radical action of the U.S. Supreme Court in abolishing the federal constitutional right to abortion has wrong-footed a lot of Republican politicians whose own radical anti-abortion positions suddenly have practical consequences for those whose votes they seek. Most Republicans are trying to change the subject from abortion to inflation or crime or “wokeness” instead of directly challenging the pro-choice majority that exists even in many red states.
But if you are Arizona’s GOP Senate nominee, Blake Masters, the candidate backed by Donald Trump and bankrolled by Peter Thiel, you have a different strategy for dealing with the anger of swing voters at your wild-ass posture on abortion: You just blatantly change it. NBC News caught him in the act:
In an ad posted to Twitter on Thursday, Masters sought to portray his opponent, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, as the extremist on the issue while describing his own views as “commonsense.”
“Look, I support a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortion,” he said. “And most Americans agree with that. That would just put us on par with other civilized nations.” (Late-term abortions are extremely rare, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.)
Just after releasing the ad, Masters’s campaign overhauled his website and softened his rhetoric, re-writing or erasing five of his six positions.
Masters began his pivot in recent interviews. Before the flip-flop, Masters supported a “a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.” This position, proof of his “100% pro-life” stance, was a universally understood indicator that he was willing to ban 100 percent of abortions from the moment of conception in all 50 states, regardless of what lawmakers or voters in any of those states wanted to do. That’s what “personhood” has meant ever since the Republican National Platform embraced it in 1980; it’s not a term you can just apply to any position you want. That he also said “the right to life is guaranteed in our founding documents” confirms that he shared the “personhood movement” commitment to the belief that the Declaration of Independence’s citation of the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” meant zygotes are total human beings just like you and me.
His website also went on to endorse “other pro-life legislation” short of a total ban just showed his willingness to “protect babies” by any means available.
But that was when he was competing for the nomination of a party that is the wholly owned subsidiary of the anti-abortion movement. More recently in interviews he has said he favors “a federal personhood law that would ban abortions nationwide after the beginning of the third trimester,” with an exception for cases when the life of the mother was at risk. And as of today, the word “personhood” has vanished from his campaign website altogether. So from endorsing national measures to ban 100 percent of abortions he now just supports national measures to ban one percent (or less) of abortions. Yes, he vaguely smiles upon state laws “that respect and promote life — the lives of both the mother and the child.” But from the commanding heights of his new position as a potential U.S. senator who accepts 99 percent of abortions as a matter of national policy, he is emboldened to attack Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly for allegedly favoring “extreme no-limits pro-abortion policies” comparable to those of “China and North Korea,” not the “civilized countries” Masters claims to want to emulate.
This, of course, is a smear. Kelly, echoing the benchmarks set up by Roe v. Wade 49 years ago, supports late-term abortions only in the rare cases where the life or health of the mother is verifiably at risk. That’s not the “abortion on demand up until the moment of birth” position Masters is accusing him of favoring. And the allusion to China and North Korea, while a staple of anti-abortion-movement agitprop, is highly misleading too. Most European countries, even those with pre-viability thresholds for considering abortion regulations, have the kind of physical and mental health exceptions that American right-to-lifers regard as making any prohibitions meaningless. Most “civilized countries,” moreover, offer publicly funded abortions, which in one of the few sections of his website he has not modified, Masters does still oppose as well.
In an ad contrasting his spanking new “common-sense” positions on abortion with Kelly’s extremism, Masters has the gall to accuse Kelly of telling lies:
You could argue, I suppose, that Masters’s big if sneaky flip-flop on abortion is a testament to the power of public opinion. But the trouble is, if he actually wins, we know he will have no compunctions about flip-flopping right back.