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Grimes Campaign: 'Alison Opposes Late-Term Abortions'

Is Kentucky's Democratic Senate candidate trying to have it both ways on the abortion issue?

11:01 AM, Apr 25, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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EMILY's List, a PAC dedicated to electing women who support a right to abortion-on-demand, is one of Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes's top financial backers, according to the Washington Post. But Grimes, a Democrat from Kentucky, is being cagey about her stance on one of EMILY's List's top priorities: Stopping a bill that would ban most abortions after the fifth month of gestation.

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When THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked the Grimes campaign how the candidate would vote on a federal 20-week abortion limit, Grimes campaign press secretary Charly Norton wrote in an email: "Alison opposes late-term abortions."

That one-line response would seem to indicate that Grimes would vote for the late-term abortion ban, but it's not perfectly clear. When asked to clarify how Grimes would vote with a simple "yes" or "no," the campaign refused to respond and has remained silent for days. Press Secretary Charly Norton also did not say whether Grimes would vote for or against the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In 2013, Howard Fineman reported that Grimes told him "that she was pro-choice down the line on abortion."

Grimes may be reluctant to take a clear position on late-term abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion because these issues pit her top donors against an overwhelming majority of voters. A Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in 2013 found that Americans favor limiting abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy or earlier by a 39-point margin (66 percent to 28 percent). Kentucky is a culturally conservative state, and a 20-week limit on abortion was recently passed overwhelmingly by the Democratic-controlled legislature in neighboring West Virginia. Days after Democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the measure, West Virginia's Democratic senator Joe Manchin came out in favor of the federal version of the bill.

The late-term abortion issue has been very difficult for other red state Democrats. Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have refused to take a position on the measure. Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis rose to national fame by waging a talking filibuster to stop Texas from banning elective abortions later than 20 weeks after gestation, the point in human development at which infants can survive long-term outside the womb and can feel pain. In February, Davis said she could support a 20-week abortion limit if exceptions were broad enough. Following backlash form her pro-choice supporters, Davis backtracked and said that it would be impossible to write any such law limiting abortion. 

The congressional effort to ban late-term abortions took off last year following the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist who was convicted of killing infants after they were born by "snipping" their necks with scissors. Advocates of the late-term abortion ban have argued that there is little moral difference between the infanticides committed by Gosnell and legal late-term abortions, which, according to congressional testimony, involve injecting an infant's heart with a poison-filled syringe and/or literally dismembering her before she is born.

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