North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, a staunchly anti-choice politician who says he would support a “personhood” amendment to the U.S. Constitution and believes states should have the right to ban contraceptives, won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on Tuesday night.
Since Tillis won with more than 40 percent of the vote, he avoids a runoff and goes on to face pro-choice Democrat Kay Hagan in the general election. That race will be one of several to determine whether Democrats maintain control of the Senate, and observers predict that it could be a referendum on women’s health issues similar to last year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, when Terry McAuliffe defeated the vocally anti-choice Ken Cuccinelli.
Planned Parenthood advocates vow to educate and motivate women voters in North Carolina using a data-driven strategy similar to what they used in Virginia. Planned Parenthood Action Fund launched a massive $18 million Women Are Watching campaign earlier this year designed to support reproductive “champs” like Hagan against “chumps” like Tillis.
“The difference between Senator Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis couldn’t be starker when it comes to issues important to women, such as access to birth control and safe and legal abortion,” said Melissa Reed, vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund, in a statement. “We can count on Senator Hagan to stand up for North Carolina women and families in Washington, but the only thing we can count on Thom Tillis to do is attack women’s access to health care every chance he gets.”
Many reports characterize Tillis as the “GOP establishment” candidate, but as Joan Walsh notes at Salon, there is actually little daylight between him and his Tea Party challengers when it comes to ideology:
Far from having lost, the Tea Party has gotten most of what it wanted in Tillis. The House speaker is a leader of the movement to repeal most of the 20th century in North Carolina. He’s a tax-slashing, voter-ID backing, anti-choice extremist who opposes a federal minimum wage. Just to make clear Tillis is no threat to Tea Party ideology, Rand Paul endorsed him before the final votes were counted Tuesday night.
“Don’t be fooled by claims that he is a ‘moderate.’ Thom Tillis is an extreme opponent of women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.
Tillis faced a crowded field of challengers, most of whom were equally anti-choice and some only slightly more so (opposing abortion in all circumstances except to save the woman’s life, while Tillis also supports exceptions for rape and incest).
Tillis’ record as speaker of the house in North Carolina has been one of aggressively attempting to limit access to reproductive health care. He championed an unpopular package of abortion restrictions that was inserted into an unrelated motorcycle safety bill, voted multiple times to defund Planned Parenthood, and led the charge to pass an extreme forced ultrasound bill that was ultimately vetoed.