Democrats seek to make GOP pay for threats to reproductive rights

Samantha Liss, KFF Health News on

Published in Political News

Democrat Lucas Kunce is trying to pin reproductive care restrictions on Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, betting it will boost his chances of unseating the incumbent in November.

In a recent ad campaign, Kunce accuses Hawley of jeopardizing reproductive care, including in vitro fertilization. Staring straight into the camera, with tears in her eyes, a Missouri mom identified only as Jessica recounts how she struggled for years to conceive.

“Now there are efforts to ban IVF, and Josh Hawley got them started,” Jessica said. “I want Josh Hawley to look me in the eye and tell me that I can’t have the child that I deserve.”

Never mind that IVF is legal in Missouri, or that Hawley has said he supports limited access to abortion as a “pro-life” Republican. In key races across the country, Democrats are branding their Republican rivals as threats to women’s health after a broad erosion of reproductive rights since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, including near-total state abortion bans, efforts to restrict medication abortion, and a court ruling that limited IVF in Alabama.

On top of the messaging campaigns, Democrats hope ballot measures to guarantee abortion rights in as many as 13 states — including Missouri, Arizona, and Florida — will help boost turnout in their favor.

The issue puts the GOP on the defensive, said J. Miles Coleman, an election analyst at the University of Virginia.


“I don’t really think Republicans have found a great way to respond to it yet,” he said.

Abortion is such a salient issue in Arizona, for example, that election analysts say a U.S. House seat occupied by Republican Juan Ciscomani is now a toss-up.

Hawley appears in less peril, for now. He holds a wide lead in polls, though Kunce outraised him in the most recent quarter, raking in $2.25 million in donations compared with the incumbent’s $846,000, according to campaign finance reports. Still, Hawley’s war chest is more than twice the size of Kunce’s.

Kunce, a Marine veteran and antitrust advocate, said he likes his odds.


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