Yesterday, we noted that a long-simmering feud in the anti-choice movement – between extremists who will accept no legislation short of banning all abortions and anti-choice pragmatists who advocate a more incremental approach to toward the same goal – has bubbled to the surface in GOP Senate primaries in Colorado and Georgia.
Today we learn that a similar public feud is taking place in Kentucky, where National Right to Life and its state affiliate Kentucky Right to Life have endorsed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, while a smaller, more extreme group – with a deceptively similar name – is backing McConnell’s Tea Party primary challenger Matt Bevin, who has promised the group that he would take radical anti-choice and anti-contraception positions.
National Right to Life and Kentucky Right to Life sent out a press release yesterday to “reaffirm” their endorsement of McConnell and to make clear that Northern Kentucky Right to Life, the group that endorsed Bevin, “is not affiliated” with either group. “Pro-life voters need to come together to re-elect pro-life Sen. Mitch McConnell and defeat pro-abortion Alison Lundergan Grimes,” pleaded Kentucky Right to Life director Margie Montgomery.
But Bevin’s campaign has been pushing the Northern Kentucky group’s endorsement hard.
Bevin landed the endorsement last week after he gave “100 percent pro-life answers” to the group’s candidate questionnaire. Although we couldn’t find a copy of Bevin’s answers, a version of the questionnaire posted by another candidate shows that in order to earn a 100 percent rating, Bevin would have agreed to support a radical “personhood” amendment to the US Constitution (which could ban some common types of birth control), support legislation making it “a criminal offence to perform, to assist with, or to pay for an abortion on another” with the only exception being to save the life of the pregnant woman, to impose an anti-choice litmus test on judicial nominees, and even to work to prohibit Medicaid funding for standard birth control pills.
When the Louisville Courier-Journal asked Bevin’s campaign about the anti-contraception position, they dodged, answering: "Matt stands in lock step with conservatives who oppose all use of taxpayer money for abortion."
Northern Kentucky Right to Life takes a strong stance against contraception access: one recent newsletter from the group features an article called “The Pill Kills," and another calls abortion and contraception part of a “massive Ponzi scheme” to undermine the economy.
Bevin welcomed and touted the Northern Kentucky group’s endorsement, saying “It is such an honor to receive the endorsement of the Northern Kentucky Right to Life. This stalwart group has a long history of fighting tirelessly for life in Kentucky, and I’m grateful to have their support. It is encouraging to see our campaign’s pro-life, pro-family, and limited government message grow across the state.”
But Bevin’s extremism doesn’t mean that McConnell is a moderate on reproductive rights. Instead, McConnell’s a great ally of the larger national groups that are taking a more incremental approach to gradually erode the right to choose. So, while Bevin’s promised to support a Personhood amendment – which is radical but has very little chance of going anywhere – McConnell led his party to support a measure that would have allowed any employer to deny their employees birth control coverage in their health care plans.
Not to mention the fact that Northern Kentucky Right to Life already has a senator in its court. In 2010, Sen. Rand Paul also answered “yes” to every question on the group’s questionnaire, and earlier this month he introduced a “fetal personhood” bill to outlaw all abortions.