During Wednesday night’s debate against Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) for a June 25 special election to fill Secretary of State John Kerry’s vacant seat, Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez gave some indication of how he would vote on reproductive health policy, a topic that he has been reluctant to discuss in detail on the campaign trail.
When they were Republican Senate candidates in Massachusetts, both Mitt Romney and Scott Brown took pains to stress that while they are personally “pro-life,” they had no interest in changing policy; they refused to discuss the issue in much more depth than that. Gomez has been taking a similar approach in this campaign. He’s been repeatedly evasive about his stance on access to birth control, and especially his views on the failed Blunt Amendment that would have allowed private employers to bar employees from accessing contraception without a co-pay.
However, at Wednesday’s debate Gomez gave some indication of how he might vote on reproductive rights issues. When asked about his stance on the constitutional right to abortion, Gomez started out by being typically evasive. But when asked about a hypothetical federal law that would impose a forced waiting period and politician-approved information on women seeking abortions, he said, “I think asking someone to wait 24 hours before they can actually go have an abortion is not asking a lot.”
There is currently no such federal law, though 26 states impose forced waiting periods on women before they can access legal abortion care. Reproductive rights advocates argue that these waiting periods force women to endure unnecessary burdens in arranging transportation, additional time off work, support for care-giving responsibilities (more than 60 percent of women seeking abortion already have children), and a place to stay overnight; as of 2005, 87 percent of counties lacked an abortion provider, and 35 percent of U.S. women lived in those counties.
During the debate, Gomez said he would not apply a litmus test in voting for Supreme Court nominees, unlike Rep. Markey, who pledged to vote only to confirm justices who would uphold Roe v. Wade. “If [a Supreme Court nominee is] pro-life and you vote for them, they’re going to have the ability to overturn Roe v. Wade and that’s your vote,” Markey said. “And you just said to the women of this state that you support, and you would support, a Supreme Court nominee who could do that. And I don’t think that serves the best interests of the women in this state.”
The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts noted in a statement that 73 percent of Massachusetts voters believe that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. “Passing restrictions on safe, legal abortion such as unnecessary, onerous waiting periods or approving the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice who opposes Roe v. Wade is changing the law—and not for the better,” said the group’s director of public affairs, Tricia Wadja.
In the hours before the debate, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a press release blasting a Gomez campaign spokesperson for using Twitter earlier that day to dismiss concerns about contraception as “inside baseball.”