GOP’s Tim Sheehy Revives Discredited Abortion Claims in Pivotal Senate Race

Matt Volz

“Elective abortions up to and including the moment of birth. Healthy, 9-month-year-old baby killed at the moment of birth. That’s what Jon Tester and the Democrats have voted for.”

Tim Sheehy, Montana GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, stated in a June 8 debate

Tim Sheehy, the Republican candidate looking for to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and provides U.S. Senate management to the GOP, is campaigning on what he calls Tester’s and Democrats’ “extreme” place on abortion. 

In a televised debate June 8, Sheehy accused Tester and Democrats of voting for “elective abortions up to and including the moment of birth.” That assertion prompted Tester to reply: “To say we’re killing babies at 40 weeks is total BS.”

Sheehy has made this accusation on his campaign website, which says, “Jon Tester supports elective abortion on demand up until the moment of birth. Think about that again: Jon Tester supports aborting a healthy, full-term baby the day before it’s due. That is the extreme position here.” Similar statements have been made within the marketing campaign’s social media posts.

Painting the Democratic candidate with, in Sheehy’s phrases, an “extreme” place on abortion is a well-recognized conservative marketing campaign technique and marketing campaign talking point this election cycle. But how does it maintain up? 

Some Recent History

Asked for proof to help Sheehy’s accusations, Sheehy’s marketing campaign spokesperson, Katie Martin, stated the Republican candidate was referring to Tester’s vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which didn’t go the Senate in 2022. She cited the invoice’s provisions that stated well being suppliers and sufferers would have the precise to carry out and obtain abortion companies with out sure limitations or necessities impeding entry.

Anti-abortion advocates say the measure, which has been reintroduced within the present Congress, would create a loophole eliminating any limits to aborting a fetus later in being pregnant. And, relatively than outline when a fetus is viable throughout being pregnant, the invoice would go away the query of viability to the well being supplier, who’s financially motivated to carry out abortions, in keeping with Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a nonprofit group supporting anti-abortion candidates, including Sheehy.

It would impose no-limits abortion on demand in all 50 states at any point in pregnancy,” stated Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America.

In 2022, the laws failed two votes within the Senate earlier than the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization choice eliminated federal protections for abortion entry and left the difficulty to the states to resolve. Tester voted for the measure each instances, however the invoice did not advance after votes of 46-48 and 49-51.

Alina Salganicoff, a KFF senior vp and director of the nonprofit’s Women’s Health Policy Program, stated nothing within the Women’s Health Protection Act helps an abortion up-to-the-minute of start. Rather, the laws would enable a well being supplier to carry out abortions with out obstacles resembling ready intervals, checks deemed medically pointless, pointless in-person visits, or different restrictions imposed by states.

The invoice would explicitly enable an abortion after a fetus is viable when, in keeping with the laws, “in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

“This is not abortion on demand until the moment of birth,” Salganicoff stated. “Even if politicians and anti-abortion activists make this claim, there are no clinicians that provide ‘abortions’ moments before birth.”

Besides the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Sheehy marketing campaign cited Tester’s opposition to “born-alive” laws meant to guard infants who survive botched abortions.

“At what week does he think it’s inappropriate for medical providers to perform an abortion?” Martin stated of Tester. “That would clear up his stance on the issue. Based on his voting record, it suggests he does, in fact, support abortion on demand up until the moment of birth.”

In 2002, Congress handed a “born-alive” law that gave authorized protections to infants who survive abortions. A stalled 2022 bill sought to increase that regulation so as to add felony penalties to well being professionals who don’t take steps to protect the lifetime of any baby born. Montana voters rejected an analogous poll query in 2022.

Tester was elected to the Senate 4 years after the primary invoice handed and a vote was not taken on the 2022 measure.

Looking on the Data

Instances of fetuses surviving abortions are rare. So are abortions carried out later in being pregnant: Just 1% of all abortions within the U.S. occur at or after 21 weeks of gestation. (The proportion of abortions that happen when the fetus is presumed to be viable, 24 weeks or later, is presumably decrease, however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t get away abortion charges for that interval.)

An evaluation by SBA Pro-Life America’s research arm, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, concluded that 6% of abortions carried out in 2020, or an estimated 55,800 abortions, occurred at or after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Most late-term abortions are elective, performed on healthy women with healthy babies for the same reasons given for first-trimester abortions,” Dannenfelser stated.

SBA Pro-Life cites abortions at 15 weeks and later as a result of that’s the stage of growth at which a fetus can feel pain, in keeping with the group. That is identical rationale behind Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham’s 15-week abortion ban legislation launched in 2022.

But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “the science conclusively establishes” {that a} fetus doesn’t have the capability to really feel ache till 24 or 25 weeks.

“Every medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus,” in keeping with the OB-GYN medical group.

Katrina Kimport, a professor within the University of California-San Francisco’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, stated “born-alive” legal guidelines try to control one thing that doesn’t occur.

Kimport, whose analysis concerned interviewing 30 folks in 2018 who had abortions after 24 weeks of being pregnant, and 10 extra from 2021 to 2022, additionally criticized Sheehy’s use of “elective abortion.” In her view, that terminology displays a political colloquialism that’s come to imply an abortion that’s elective. That’s completely different from the medical definition, she stated, wherein an elective process is one that could be obligatory however just isn’t an emergency and could be scheduled for a selected date, resembling knee surgical procedure.

Women have abortions later in being pregnant both as a result of they discover out new data or due to financial or political boundaries, Kimport stated.

“I have never spoken to somebody whose abortion decision was not informed by deep thought and consideration,” she stated.

Trying to Change the Debate

Mary Ziegler is a University of California-Davis regulation professor who specializes within the regulation, historical past, and politics of copy, well being care, and conservatism. She stated Sheehy’s argument reprises a Republican speaking level that abortion opponents have made for many years.

Similar arguments are being heard nationwide as 10 states consider ballot measures to constitutionally defend abortion this election cycle.

Republicans resembling Sheehy are accusing Democrats of being excessive on abortion partly to steer the dialogue away from their very own unsure place, Ziegler stated. The anti-abortion bloc is a key a part of the GOP base, however because the Dobbs ruling, voters in seven states, together with Montana, have added or upheld abortion rights in elections.

“They can’t really disavow what pro-life groups want as extreme because many of their base voters would be horrified by that,” Ziegler stated. “But they can’t embrace it because then many swing voters would be horrified by that.”

Kimport stated Sheehy’s assertion “reveals a blatant misunderstanding of pregnancy care.”

“What people don’t understand about third-trimester abortions is that there aren’t very many, but for the people who do need abortions later in pregnancy, the circumstances are often desperate and intense,” she stated. “And these are the people who are being maligned in these political conversations.”

Our Ruling

Sheehy’s description of Tester’s “extreme” place that will enable abortion “up until the moment of birth” merely doesn’t maintain up.

These statements are rooted in Tester’s help for the Women’s Health Protection Act. That invoice, nevertheless, doesn’t open the door to abortion on demand later in being pregnant. Instead, it permits for the position of medical judgment. In addition, CDC knowledge signifies that late-term pregnancies are uncommon. Also, the time period “elective abortion” is a political relatively than medical phrasing.

We fee this declare False.


NBC Montana, “WATCH: Incumbent U.S. Senator Tester debates challenger Tim Sheehy,” July 9, 2024

X social platform, post by @SheehyforMT, June 9, 2024

Tim Sheehy’s U.S. Senate marketing campaign web site, accessed June 9, 2024

Email interview with Katie Martin, Tim Sheehy’s spokesperson, June 11, 2024

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, “SBA Pro-Life America’s Candidate Fund Endorses Tim Sheehy for U.S. Senate,” Jan. 30, 2024

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, in a press release, June 26, 2024

Email interview with Alina Salganicoff, KFF senior vp and director of the nonprofit’s Women’s Health Policy Program, June 12, 2024

Phone interview with Katrina Kimport, University of California-San Francisco professor, June 12, 2024

Phone interview with Mary Ziegler, University of California-San Diego professor, June 12, 2024 

Email interview with Rachel Kingery, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists spokesperson, June 12, 2024

KFF, “Status of Abortion-Related State Constitutional Amendment Measures for the 2024 Election,” up to date June 28, 2024

KFF, ”Abortions Later in Pregnancy in a Post-Dobbs Era,” Feb. 21, 2024

Julie Rovner, KFF Health News, “Abortion ‘Until the Day of Birth’ Is Almost Never a Thing,” Nov. 15, 2023

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “ACOG Guide to Language and Abortion,” accessed June 11, 2024

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Facts Are Important: Understanding and Navigating Viability,” accessed June 11, 2024 

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Facts Are Important: Gestational Development and Capacity for Pain,” accessed June 11, 2024

Charlotte Lozier Institute, Fact Sheet: “Abortions at 15 Weeks in the United States,” up to date Jan. 12, 2023

PolitiFact, “Ron DeSantis’ False Claim That Some States Allow ‘Post-Birth Abortions. None Do,” July 21, 2023

Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, accessed June 11, 2024

Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, accessed June 11, 2024

Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, accessed July 2, 2024

Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002, accessed June 11, 2024 

Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act of 2022, accessed June 11, 2024 

Montana Free Press, “How Montana’s LR-131 ‘Born Alive’ Referendum Failed,” Nov. 15, 2022 

Ballotpedia, “History of Abortion Ballot Measures,” accessed June 13, 2024

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