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Reichert works to fend off Democrats’ claims he’d try to restrict abortion as governor

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Reichert works to fend off Democrats’ claims he’d try to restrict abortion as governor

Jun 12, 2024 | 7:49 pm ET
By Jerry Cornfield
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Reichert works to fend off Democrats’ claims he’d try to restrict abortion as governor
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Republican former congressman Dave Reichert, pictured here in a screenshot of a new campaign ad that will air this summer, is trying to blunt Democratic attacks claiming that he'd try to restrict abortion rights if elected governor. (Reichert campaign)

Republican Dave Reichert says he will uphold Washington’s abortion law if elected governor. A top Democratic Party leader and abortion rights activist said Wednesday they don’t believe him.

Reichert, in an ad posted online last week, says he won’t change a law put in place by voters in 1970, that made abortion legal up to the point where a fetus is viable.

“I do not believe any politician regardless of personal belief has the right to make that decision for any woman,” he says in the 30-second spot that will air more widely this summer.

But Shasti Conrad, chair of the state Democratic Party, called the ad “extremely misleading” and an attempt to “distract” from Reichert’s anti-abortion record while serving in Congress. 

Jennifer Allen, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, called it a “cynical ploy” because he knows his views are out of step with a majority of the state’s voters.

The tussle spotlights a huge challenge facing the leading GOP candidate in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, whose tenure saw Washington emerge nationally as a haven for those seeking abortions and providing reproductive care services. 

On Tuesday, Inslee bolstered that reputation with a directive to ensures medical providers continue to perform emergency abortion services for patients.

The ad is Reichert’s most visible attempt to counteract unrelenting attacks from Democrats who claim he will follow a path blazed by Republican leaders in GOP-led states and work to unwind Washington’s existing protections.

Bob Ferguson, the attorney general and leading Democrat in the race, launched his first salvo a year ago, calling Reichert anti-choice and a “profound threat” to reproductive freedom.

On a seemingly daily basis, Ferguson’s campaign is on social media or raising money with a pitch that “anti-choice extremists will never be satisfied until the right to choose is eliminated everywhere.”

Reichert, in his commercial, accuses Ferguson of “trying to spread fear by saying things that I don’t believe and will not do.”

On Wednesday, Jeff Harvey, his senior campaign advisor, said, Ferguson and his allies “are purposely misleading voters on this issue because they can’t defend the failed policies Bob would continue to champion that have left people feeling less safe in their communities and are making Washington unaffordable.”

But this issue is very tricky for Reichert given his history.

He’s personally opposed to abortion. In his seven terms in Congress, he supported bills to eliminate federal funding for it and create a national abortion ban at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Allen said when she lobbied Reichert in Congress he repeatedly told her he cared about abortion rights, then voted to weaken them.

“Actions speak louder than words,” she said. “He would say one thing to me and then vote a different way when he got to the floor. I actually don’t feel like there’s any evolution in his duplicity or in my expectations of him.”

On Wednesday, Ferguson did not respond to requests for comment on the ad.

Semi Bird, the endorsed GOP candidate of the Washington State Republican Party, scoffed at Reichert and Ferguson, saying each adopts policies “to suit the audience of the moment” in pursuit of votes.

“I have been consistent in my position to value life, adhere to the constitution, and enforce the laws of Washington State,” he said in a statement. 

“The abortion discussion has been weaponized for far too long. It has divided and distracted Washington citizens from the fact that these career politicians lack the ability to address the current high cost of living, broken public education system, homelessness, and lawlessness,” Bird added.

Democrat Mark Mullet, a state senator, said Republicans can be pro-choice and get elected to statewide office – pointing to former governor Dan Evans and former secretary of state Kim Wyman as examples.

“This issue is really simple. Either you’re pro-choice or pro-life. Voters in this state want to support someone who is pro-choice,” he said. “I’m pro-choice.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct Jeff Harvey’s title.