In the final days of the campaign, abortion has become an issue in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Bob Kerrey and Republican Deb Fischer.
Anti-abortion groups are flooding Nebraskans' mailboxes with fliers and radio airwaves with ads that contrast Kerrey and Fischer's abortion views. Meanwhile, the two candidates have accused each other of holding “extreme” views.
They have spent the bulk of the election battling over the economy and the nation's debt, but they've also occasionally exchanged barbs over abortion.
On this issue, there is a clear contrast.
Kerrey supports abortion rights, saying government should not become involved in a decision that should be left to a woman and her doctor. He also opposed efforts to ban a controversial procedure dubbed partial-birth abortion while serving in the Senate.
Fischer opposes abortion with one exception: the life of the mother. She does not believe exceptions should be made for either rape or incest.
Fischer has the backing of the state's largest anti-abortion group, Nebraska Right to Life. She also is being supported by Americans United for Life, a Washington, D.C., group that sent out a direct mail piece this week accusing Kerrey of “extreme” abortion views.
In addition, the Susan B. Anthony List — another anti-abortion group — has launched $40,000 in radio ads against Kerrey in both Omaha and Lincoln.
Kerrey rejects the idea that his beliefs are “extreme.” In fact, he argues that Fischer's opposition to abortion after rape is the “extreme” position in the race.
“If a woman is raped, the government is going to prevent her from aborting her pregnancy? There is nothing moderate in that position whatever,” said Kerrey. “This is a very difficult question for women, and I trust women to make it.”
Fischer said she has always opposed abortion, but she acknowledges that her views have changed over the years. When she first ran for the Nebraska Legislature in 2004, Fischer said she believed exceptions should be made for rape and incest.
However, in 2012, when she filled out the Nebraska Right to Life questionnaire, Fischer made it clear that she no longer supported those exceptions.
In staking out that position, Fischer finds herself at odds with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who backs the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
“Over the years, I personally reflected on my position on the life issue and reaffirmed my commitment to protect life,” said Fischer, who noted in a written statement that she believes life begins at conception.
She also said that if she is “extreme,” then so are two other prominent Nebraska politicians, both of whom do not support exceptions for rape or incest: Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and Republican Sen. Mike Johanns.
She called Kerrey the race's extremist because of his past opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban.
“My views on the issue are the same as Senator Nelson's and Senator Johanns,'” Fischer said.
Kerrey acknowledges that his vote against the partial-birth abortion ban was unpopular in some quarters, but he argued it was the right thing to do. He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled the ban unconstitutional.
“It's an unpopular vote, in part, because it was misunderstood,” said Kerrey.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a partial-birth abortion ban. However, in 2006, the court upheld a similiar version of the law, which stands today.
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