On the issue of abortion, the contrast could not be clearer in this year’s race to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.
Firm positions staked out by both Republican Rep. Don Bacon and Democratic challenger Kara Eastman could factor into a potentially close race.
Eastman has told The World-Herald, MSNBC and others that she favors no government restrictions on abortion.
Bacon opposes abortion in all cases except to save the life of a mother and has sought federal restrictions.
Eastman has drawn endorsements from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Emily’s List, the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood.
They celebrated her support for the right for a woman to make a private decision, as Eastman says, between a woman, her doctor, her family and her faith.
Bacon on Wednesday announced endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List and Nebraskans United for Life.
They highlighted his legislation to stop abortions after five months of pregnancy and to ensure equal protections for “babies who survive failed abortions.”
Abortion has drawn a dividing line in national politics in the years since the Supreme Court weighed in on Roe v. Wade in 1973.
For those who care deeply about the issue, there is little ambiguity: People either back a woman’s right to choose or a fetus’s right to live.
People running for Congress in politically competitive places, including the Omaha-area 2nd District, often moderate their views on divisive issues. They do this to appeal to the larger portions of independent and loosely affiliated partisans who call such places home.
Normally in Nebraska, both candidates are pro-life, said Paul Landow, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
When they’re not, he said, the pro-choice candidate usually tries to downplay his or her position in the belief that a strong pro-choice stance won’t help them get elected.
The majority opinion in the district might be pro-choice, with restrictions, Landow said, but pro-choice voters don’t always focus on the issue.
Pro-life voters do, he said, and that is what has kept a lot of Democrats quiet.
But Eastman apparently made the calculation that “she can win in a heavily Catholic congressional district by being openly pro-choice,” Landow said.
Nobody knows, he said, because nobody’s tried it this way.
Bacon says he is prepared to hammer Eastman’s position as extreme. On abortion, he says, Eastman is “to the left of Bernie Sanders.”
Eastman, for her part, has said that she will not compromise on the issue because “the people who are being compromised are women.”
Voters can decide for themselves by reading what the candidates, in their own words, offered as each announced endorsements.
Said Bacon: “Life begins at conception and all life is precious, so I will continue to fight for the unborn.”
Said Eastman: “It is time for our country to acknowledge that a woman’s right to choose is about her personal freedom.”