blake masters
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The national fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision ending Roe v. Wade has sent Republican candidates scrambling to pivot from their red-meat primary attacks on women’s reproductive freedom.

Now that they face the full electorate – animated by energized women voters furious over the decision – Republicans have resorted to some of the most shameless flip-flops on record. Campaigns have rushed to scrub their websites of anti-choice rhetoric and the candidates are disowning their own words on the subject. In some cases, just weeks or months after uttering them.

The strong political winds have sent anti-choice Republican politicians at every level scurrying for cover like a gaggle of Josh Hawley’s. Before-and-after snapshots reveal the depths of intellectual dishonesty to which they have been willing to sink.

Here are some cases in point:

Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania (Governor)

Before: “Abortion is my number one issue.” He would allow for no exceptions. “That baby deserves a right to life, whether it was conceived in incest, rape or whether there are concerns otherwise for the mom.” He supports criminal penalties for doctors and nurses involved in performing abortions. At a primary debate, he noted that his first bill as a state senator was to ban all abortions at six weeks, adding “I’m at conception, but we have to work toward that.”

After: Mastriano has gone silent on abortion since winning the primary and described it as a “distraction,” as reported here and here and here.

Kari Lake, Arizona (Governor)

Before: I believe that abortion is the ultimate sin. The mother does have some choices when it comes to her health, but this is a separate life, this is the life of a baby. And just because the baby is inside the womb and not outside the womb doesn’t make it any less valuable as a human being.” She also said she would “very much” favor banning abortion pills in Arizona and that all abortion clinics should be closed in the state. (She had indicated support for exceptions).

After: “Lake campaign didn’t respond to a question about whether she supported a complete ban, or if she would support punishments for abortion providers.”

Scott Jensen, Minnesota (Governor)

Before: In a March interview with the Minneapolis NPR, Jensen would ask if would ban abortion outright or impose new restrictions. “I would try to ban abortion. There is no reason for us to be having abortions going out. We have tremendous opportunities and availability of birth control. We don't need to be snuffing out lives that if left alone will produce a viable newborn, that may go on to be the next Albert Einstein… And we're saying no, if mom changes your mind, she can go ahead and slice and dice it and be done with it.”

After: “As he appeals to general election voters, Jensen has amended his position,” the Twin Cities’ Fox News affiliate reported. “In a July 29 campaign video, Jensen called his previous comments "clumsy" and said he would support exceptions to a ban. "If I’ve been unclear previously, I want to be clear now," he said. "Rape and incest along with endangering the mother’s mental or physical health are acceptable exceptions."

Blake Masters, Arizona (U.S. Senate)

Before: “There’s a genocide happening in America. Under Roe v Wade, the federal government recognizes the right to kill babies in the womb. It’s a religious sacrifice to these people. I think it’s demonic and we’ve got to put a stop to it. You have to know in your bones that killing an unborn person is not about health.”

After: Masters’ campaign recently scrubbed his website of the words, “I am 100 percent pro-life” and of his support for "a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed." He now only will say, ““Most people support common-sense regulation around abortion. I support a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortions.”

Adam Laxalt, Nevada (U.S. Senate)

Before: “Roe v. Wade was always a joke. It was a total, complete invention.” As to Nevada having passed pro-choice laws: “It’s sad, it doesn’t make me happy. We are not a pro-life state and we’ve got work to do on that.”

After: “Voters in 1990 determined that Nevada is and will remain a pro-choice state. The Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs did not change Nevada law in this regard.” From his own August 2 op-ed piece in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Tiffany Smiley, Washington (U.S. Senate)

Before: After Texas passed its infamous near-total ban on abortion last fall, Smiley told reporters she agreed with it. She did add, “there’s a lot of parts of it that make it very hard for me in Washington state. But at the end of the day, I’m pro-woman first and then always pro-life.”

After: “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.” Smiley complained about a Democratic ad calling her an “extremist” because of having supported Texas’ draconian law. Which she had.

Herschel Walker, Georgia (U.S. Senate)

Before: “There’s no exception in my mind,” Walker told reporters after a campaign speech. “Like I say, I believe in life. I believe in life.” And at another campaign stop: “Walker promised to “protect the unborn with my life … because I believe from the womb to the tomb.”

After: Speaking at an event for farmers in Georgia, he was asked if the abortion ban in Georgia would impact his election. “People aren’t concerned about that,” Walker said, according to the Gainesville Times.

Tom Barrett, Michigan (U.S. House)

Before: On May 2, the Detroit Free Press reported, “State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, who is in a tough race to try to knock off U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, in a toss-up district that includes Lansing, has been sending out fundraising flyers calling himself "100% PRO-LIFE — NO EXCEPTIONS."

After: “Barrett has removed the "values" section of his campaign website that touted his anti-abortion position and history with the pro-life movement,” the Detroit News reported last week.

Barb Kirkmeyer, Colorado (U.S. House)

Before: After the Dobbs decision was leaked, Kirkmeyer posted this on her Facebook page. “Roe v Wade was a terrible decision that was not Constitutionally sound, and millions of unborn babies have died as a result.” She had also described herself as believing “unambiguously” that life begins at conception.

After: “Kirkmeyer removed language saying she would "defend the sanctity of life" and took down a video of her speaking at an anti-abortion rally earlier this year,” Axios reported.

Zach Nunn, Iowa (U.S. House)

Before:During a May primary debate (the moderator) asked all three candidates, “In your mind, should all abortions be illegal in this country? Hand up if you say ‘yes.’ All abortions, just to be clear,” Nunn said as he raised his hand. The moderator confirmed, “All abortions, no exceptions.” Nunn kept his hand up.”

After: “I wholeheartedly support the sanctity of life and believe that life begins with conception, but I also understand that there are real-world scenarios that aren’t black-and-white. There are medical emergencies that happen, like ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, that are beyond our control. That is why the heartbeat bill I supported in the Legislature contained specific exceptions for horrific circumstances like rape, incest and fetal abnormalities, and to save the life of the mother.” (From Nunn’s August 19 op-ed in the Des Moines Register).

Christian Castelli, North Carolina (U.S. House)

Before: “As a devout Christian, I will protect the unborn from conception to birth,” his issues page said before the primary. “I believe life begins at conception and we must do everything in our power to protect the defenseless at every stage of life. I will fight to stop tax dollars from being used to fund Planned Parenthood and abortion. Taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund immoral practices.” (via TV station Fox8 in North Carolina)

After: There’s no mention of abortion on his recently scrubbed website.

Amanda Atkins, Kansas (U.S. House)

Before: Supported the failed Kansas constitutional amendment that would have allowed abortion to become outlawed in the state. And her website stated, “As a pro-life advocate, I am committed to supporting life from conception until natural death. I celebrate the dignity and value of every citizen as informed by my strong faith and experiences as a mother.”

After: “Decisions on abortion policy belong close to the people, at the state level, and that’s where I’ll work to keep them as a member of Congress. I don’t support a federal ban on abortion, nor do I support any other federal policymaking related to contraception or fertility.” As a pro-life candidate, I will continue to be part of the dialogue on this issue at the state level, but I believe it’s not Congress’ place to impose a national abortion policy on Kansans.” (From her August 25 op-ed in the Kansas City Star).

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