Linda McMahon is trying to thread the needle as a pro-choice Republican in the Connecticut Senate race, but a policy stance she took last week is leading pro-choice advocates in the Nutmeg State to further question her abortion rights credentials.
At an editorial board meeting with the Hartford Courant Friday, McMahon said she opposed requiring religious hospitals to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims, which has been state law in Connecticut since 2007.
“I don’t think that the government should overreach,” McMahon said when asked if a Catholic-run hospital should be required to provide emergency contraception access to a rape victim who arrives “in the middle of the night.”
“I mean it’s a separation of church and state in my view, and I think that a religious institution has the right to decide what its policies would be in that, in that case,” she said.
Here’s the full exchange on the law (transcript at the bottom of this post):
Running a tough race in a blue state, McMahon is a rarity among Republicans this year in that she openly favors abortion rights for women. But McMahon has also taken stands that anger the pro-choice community, such as her support for the so-called Blunt Amendment which would given allowed employers the right to refuse to pay for contraception coverage in employee insurance plans.
Democrats used McMahon’s support for Blunt to cast her as an extremist on women’s issues, hoping to drive a wedge between her and a key part of the electorate. McMahon’s answer about contraception is likely to get the same treatment. The campaign of her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, called McMahon’s emergency contraception stance “a big issue.” Murphy and McMahon face each other in a public debate Monday evening.
Abortion rights advocates see McMahon’s latest stance further evidence that she lacks true pro-choice credentials.
“This is such an appalling position and it couldn’t make things more clear: Linda McMahon is not pro-choice,” said Christian Miron, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut. The group has endorsed Murphy.
The Connecticut legislature overwhelmingly passed the 2007 state law that requires hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. Catholic leaders, who strenuously opposed the law, agreed to abide by it following passage. It’s not entirely clear whether McMahon opposes the Connecticut law or is unaware of it based on the wording of her answer.
State Rep. Deborah Heinrich (D), who revealed she was a rape victim during debate over the Connecticut law in 2007, told TPM that McMahon’s stance on emergency contraception put her squarely in the anti-abortion crowd.
“I wouldn’t actually say it’s fringey,” she said. “There are a lot of people who hold very strong beliefs on that side. The question is whether or not you’re willing to impose your on beliefs on someone else.”
Does she think McMahon’s stance is anti-choice?
“I absolutely do,” she said. “It’s definitely anti-woman.”
McMahon’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson first told TPM he hadn’t seen the editorial board video, then did not reply to multiple emails including a transcript of McMahon’s answer and questions about her support for the Connecticut law and her pro-choice stance.
Transcript of McMahon at the Courant editorial board (watch the whole interview here.):
Courant: So a rape victim, in a hospital. And it’s a hospital that is run by a Catholic institution. Emergency contraception, should that be—should she be sent to another hospital in the middle of the night when she’s in dire distress?
McMahon: I don’t think that the government should overreach. I mean it’s a separation of church and state in my view, and I think that a religious institution has the right to decide what its policies would be in that, in that case.
Courant: Yeah and I respect that, I just wonder if that institution, gets a certain, a majority of it’s money from the government, if it’s mostly federally funded, does that play a role in your thinking?
McMahon: Well I just think again, that it is an issue of separation of church and state, and that institution should decide what its role would be, and what it’s comfortable with doing in that instance.