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2 Republican House candidates refer to ‘post-birth’ abortions during debate

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2 Republican House candidates refer to ‘post-birth’ abortions during debate

Jun 07, 2024 | 4:49 pm ET
By Michael Achterling
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2 Republican House candidates refer to ‘post-birth’ abortions during debate
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Republican U.S. House candidates, from top left, Rick Becker, Cara Mund, Alex Balazs and Julie Fedorchak participate in a debate June 6, 2024, moderated by Steve Hallstrom, bottom left, and Scott Hennen. (Screenshot)

Republican U.S. House candidate Julie Fedorchak claimed in a debate Thursday night that some states allow post-birth abortions, a statement a doctor said during a U.S. Senate committee hearing this week is false.

Candidates were asked during the final debate ahead of Tuesday’s primary whether life begins at conception and what exceptions to abortion bans, if any, they would support. Fedorchak is competing for the Republican nomination against Rick Becker, Alex Balazs, Cara Mund and Sharlet Mohr.

Fedorchak, a Public Service Commissioner, said life begins at conception and she is in favor of abortion exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. She added she supports the Supreme Court sending the abortion issue back to the states, but she would be in favor of a federal ban on abortions after 16 weeks. 

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For more coverage of the June 11 primary, visit our North Dakota Election 2024 page.

“We are an outlier in this world, really, as supporting abortion on demand and, in many states, all the way to birth or even, in some cases, post-birth abortion,” she said during the debate on radio station WZFG The Flag. “Life is a fundamental right. Without the right to life, every other right is meaningless.” 

NDGOP-endorsed Balazs, a military veteran from Cando, also commented on post-birth abortions and said some states are “actually looking at” terminating children after they are born.

“They are trying to push that through law,” Balazs said.

Politifact has rated comments that liberal states allow abortions after birth as false multiple times.

Dr. Nisha Verma, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health in Atlanta, sought to dispel misinformation during a hearing this week to a U.S. Senate committee.

“I just really want to highlight that the situation of doing an abortion at the moment of birth doesn’t happen,” Verma said. “As a doctor who provides full spectrum reproductive health care, including OB care … it is a false hypothetical that is meant to create additional stigma around abortion care. If a patient comes in at 40 weeks, their options are a C-section and a vaginal delivery, and this misinformation is really dangerous to our patients.”

When asked for clarification, Sean Cleary, Fedorchak’s campaign manager, cited former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments to a local radio station in 2019 about third-trimester abortions. During the interview, he said, “The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” 

Cleary also cited California’s attempts in 2022 to codify abortion up to the moment of birth into state law, which an Associated Press Fact Check said is missing context and added the state law already restricts third-trimester abortions. Cleary also shared a Fox News article showing Democrats voting against a bill that would have required medical care for babies born alive after an abortion attempt. Democrats said the bill would interfere with families’ medical decisions.

During the debate, moderate candidate Mund pushed back on the comments from Fedorchak and Balazs.

“No one is having after-birth abortions,” said Mund, a Bismarck attorney and former Miss America. “This is just such false information.”

When pushed to answer, Mund said she’s a Catholic and believes life begins at conception. But she said that doesn’t mean she should advocate for laws based on her own religious beliefs. During her campaign, Mund has spoken strongly in favor of abortion rights.

“As a Republican, we are advocating for limited government, but that doesn’t mean in only certain situations,” Mund said. “The government should not be in doctor’s appointments and should not be in bedrooms.”

House candidates Becker, Mund go after Fedorchak for perceived conflicts

Plastic surgeon and former state lawmaker Rick Becker said life begins at conception, but he wasn’t in favor of any exceptions to abortion bans. But, he added, the “rare” case in which the mother’s life is threatened would potentially be the only exception.

“If you believe the baby is a baby at the point of conception, at no point is it OK to kill it,” Becker said. “That’s the only logically consistent position you can take.”

Williston resident Mohr, a fifth candidate for the Republican nomination for House, did not participate in the debate, moderated by Scott Hennen and Steve Hallstrom.

Dylan Mulvaney video

Moderators asked candidates about a video Becker’s campaign released featuring transgender social media personality Dylan Mulvaney. Becker hired Mulvaney through the website Cameo to make a video praising Fedorchak for her work with green energy.

The ad was condemned by Gender Justice, Prairie Action ND and the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, who called it an “appalling stunt.”

Becker said the video was meant to be taken as a joke and that his campaign is proud of it.

“It brought a bunch of attention and people throughout North Dakota thought it was the funniest thing that they had seen in politics in years and years and years,” Becker said.

Fedorchak said Becker’s video is the type of “political gamesmanship” that North Dakotans are sick of.

“How is that going to help our state move the ball on the policies we need to deal with?” Fedorchak said.

Second NDGOP House candidate debate features more issues than attacks; Fedorchak absent

Balazs said he doesn’t think the video was funny and it affects the morality of society.

“I wouldn’t perpetuate that sickness in our society,” Balazs said. “I certainly wouldn’t hire him to attack a woman and I wouldn’t hire him to attack another candidate in this race.”

Mund said, “It was something that I wouldn’t have necessarily done.”

Final words

During candidate closing statements, Balazs said electing a representative to the U.S. House shouldn’t be about money and endorsements, but someone who has work and life experience to get the job done. Balazs formerly worked for the State Department. He also addressed pre-election polling that showed him trailing the other candidates.

“If you like being told who to vote for, you should listen to those polls, or you should listen to the candidates who tell you to vote for them because they are the only ones who can save you,” Balazs said. “I’m asking you to vote for me.”

Mund said voters want a moderate who can negotiate and compromise.

“If you are a fed up North Dakotan who finally wants a voice in Washington, you want someone who represents all,” Mund said.

3 Republican US House candidates hold fiery first debate

Fedorchak said she entered the race because, as a mother of three, “our way of life in this country is in jeopardy.”

“We need serious leaders in Washington to get to work,” Fedorchak said. “I am the only candidate with a record of results.”

Becker said voters have a choice between a status-quo candidate, or they can go with their gut.

“I believe I know that your gut is telling you that I am the candidate who will fight for you,” Becker said. “I will be there day in, and day out. I need to go there because I am trying to make the future better for my four kids, my three grandchildren with a fourth on the way.”

States Newsroom reporter Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.