Over the past few weeks, a number of Republican candidates have run deceptive advertisements or used sneaky language to paper over their hardline views on reproductive rights. Pols who’ve done this include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Senate hopeful Scott Brown in New Hampshire, and Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. Now you can add another name to the list of pro-life GOPers who are suddenly talking about choice: Oregon’s Dennis Richardson.
Richardson, a Republican state representative running for governor, cut an ad (watch it above) featuring a self-described “pro-choice Democrat” named Michelle Horgan. Speaking directly into the camera, Horgan says: “I trust Dennis. He’ll uphold Oregon’s laws to protect my right to choose, and he’ll work hard for Oregon families.”
The language in Richardson’s ad—”He’ll uphold Oregon’s laws to protect my right to choose”—hews closely to the rhetoric used by Walker, Brown, and Beauprez. All of those Republicans have previously sought to restrict women’s reproductive rights (Walker supports eliminating all abortions). But during this election season, they have each tried to strike a moderate tone on the issue.
Richardson’s ad is particularly brazen given his long record of opposing abortion rights. He wrote a letter to the Oregonian in 1990 saying that “a woman relinquishes her unfettered right to control her own body when her actions cause the conception of a baby.” As a state legislator, he sponsored legislation to give unborn fetuses the rights of humans and to require parental notification for abortions. In 2007, he voted against mandating that hospitals offer emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted.
What’s more, Richardson has the endorsement and full-throated support of Oregon Right to Life, the state’s main anti-abortion-rights group. Oregon Right to Life’s PAC has donated $80,000 to Richardson’s campaign. (Right to Life’s $50,000 check in September remains the fourth-largest cash contribution of Richardson’s entire campaign.) In an email blast to its list, the group touted Richardson as “an excellent gubernatorial candidate” who, if elected, would offer the “opportunity to reclaim political ground and hopefully start changing the way Oregon politics treat the abortion issue. We might actually be able to end our ‘reign’ as the only state in America lacking a single restriction on abortion.”
No mistaking that message: In Richardson, the pro-life community sees an opportunity to finally start curbing abortion access in the state of Oregon. But you probably won’t see that message in Richardson’s campaign ads any time soon.