Reproductive Health Becomes Key Issue in Connecticut Senate Race

There are a lot of similarities between the two tight senate races, and in both cases reproductive rights have come to the forefront.

Linda McMahon. Photo: John Woike/Hartford Courant.

In Massachusetts, Republican Senator Scott Brown has been simultaneously assuring one set of voters that he supports a woman’s right to control her own body, while assuaging the anti-choicer’s fears that he would not be a reliable vote against abortion rights.

Now, a similar move is being made by Connecticut Republican senate hopeful Linda McMahon. Connecticut as a state is supportive of a woman’s right to choose, even going as far as to call abortion an essential health care procedure in order to ensure that it is included in the state’s health insurance exchange. For McMahon, who like Brown also identifies as a pro-choice Republican, it’s a position not without some conflicts with the Tea Party identity she had developed during her prior campaign for senate in 2010.

McMahon ran in 2010 stating that she considered herself pro-choice, although she opposed the so-called “partial birth” abortion procedure, any use of federal funding for abortions except to save a woman’s life, and supported parental consent laws that would require minors to get permission before obtaining a pregnancy termination. Despite the Republican wave that election, McMahon failed to win the seat.

Since that loss, McMahon has continued to proclaim herself pro-choice, even in moments when some of her positions have more closely aligned with conservatives. McMahon has admitted her support for the Blunt Amendment, which would allow all employers to refuse to cover contraception or other medical issues that they find “morally objectionable.” However, McMahon has stated that her support of the amendment is to support “religious freedom” only, not to cut off access to birth control.

“I said I would have reluctantly supported it,” McMahon told the Greenwich Time. “This is not a question about contraception. This is about separation of church and state. I just think that was an overreach and an overstep by government.”

“The facts are: Linda McMahon is a pro-choice candidate who supports access to contraception,” her spokesperson said via statement according to The Hartford Courant. “Congressman Murphy’s continued insistence that Linda is anything other than pro-woman is ludicrous.”

Like Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, however, McMahon, too, appears to be getting support from groups that typically don’t back pro-choice candidates.

“Linda McMahon is someone who thinks creatively on these issues,” said Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, which opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Wolfgang said McMahon still is relatively rare in Connecticut, where many Republicans recoil from any abortion-related issue, missing an opportunity to energize a conservative base.

“By being part of the way with us, I think Linda points to a future for the Republican Party,” he said.

Although the anti-choice conservative group appears interested in McMahon’s campaign, they have yet to actually endorse for the senate race.

Congressman Chris Murphy, the Democratic nominee for the seat, is also an opponent of so-called “partial birth abortion.” However, Murphy as a Representative has consistently voted against bills that forbid federal funding of abortions.

For McMahon, as for Brown, walking the tightrope of convincing voters that they will support women’s health care while at the same time not alienating their own party will be a delicate balancing act.  Currently, McMahon and Murphy are in a virtual tie in the polls.