Kentucky's Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has developed a reputation for giving shifty answers to straightforward questions. So it wasn't surprising when her press secretary recently said that "Alison opposes late-term abortions" but then refused to say how Grimes would vote on a bill banning most abortions after five months of pregnancy.
National Journal's Shane Goldmacher sat down with Grimes and finally got a straight answer. Grimes opposes limiting abortion to the first 20 weeks of gestation:
Left unmentioned: abortion, the main wedge that Democrats nationwide have used to divide GOP opponents from the swingiest parts of the electorate. In a twist, it is McConnell broaching the topic, hoping to create a fissure between the national pro-abortion-rights supporters who are helping bankroll Grimes's campaign and the conservative voters she needs to carry this Southern state. He held a press conference in Washington earlier this week pushing to ban abortions after 20 weeks.
"We should all agree that unborn children should be protected at least from the point that they're capable of feeling pain," McConnell pointedly said of the legislation.
Grimes supports abortion rights. "I come from a family of five women," she says in the interview. "I would never pretend to tell one of my sisters what to do with their body and I don't want the federal government doing that either.… When it comes to choice, I believe, should a woman have to make that decision, it's between herself, her doctor, and her God."
As for McConnell's 20-week abortion ban, she says, "I think you always put the health, life, and safety of the mother first, should that decision have to be made. I'm not for moving backwards the principles the Supreme Court has set forward."
By coming out against the 20-week abortion limit, Grimes is at odds with at least two-thirds of Kentucky voters. According to a Marist poll released last week, "67% of Kentucky residents think abortion should be illegal. This includes 21% who say it should be illegal without exceptions and 46% who say it should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life. 28%, however, report abortion should be legal. Included here are 18% who say abortion should always be legal and 10% who think it should be legal most of the time."
Grimes's opposition to the 20-week abortion limit on the grounds that it doesn't put the "health, life, and safety of the mother first" doesn't make sense. The text of the bill explicitly contains an exception for when "in reasonable medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including psychological or emotional conditions." (Medical experts have testified before Congress that if a serious medical issue should arise late in pregnancy, delivering a child alive is actually much safer than aborting her: A live delivery of the baby can be performed in an hour, but a late-term abortion can take three days.)
Despite what some Democratic politicians have said, babies are viable--that is, they can survive long-term if born--20 weeks after conception. As Dr. Colleen Malloy of Northwestern University has noted, a Journal of the American Medical Association study found that "survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks postfertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively."
Federal legislation banning most late-term abortions was introduced in 2013 after the trial of Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist who was convicted of murdering three infants after they were born. According to Margaret Carlson, a pro-choice liberal columnist at Bloomberg, the lesson of the Gosnell trial was that "there's almost no difference between killing a baby accidentally born alive in a late-term abortion, as Gosnell stands accused of, and killing the same baby in the womb, as more skilled doctors can do."
"What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote liberal, pro-life Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."