Struggling in polls, Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters is trying to purge his previous record of total opposition to legal abortion. And other Republican candidates in key statewide races are also shying away from their previous hard-line positions.
On Thursday, Masters released a new video in which he accused Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of lying about his record on abortion. In the ad, Masters says he opposes late-term abortion — an extremely rare procedure, usually done to protect the health of the mother — and says “most people support common-sense regulation,” without detailing what that regulation should be.
Masters himself has proposed extreme restrictions on abortion, including a federal law criminalizing the procedure as murder and banning some forms of contraception.
Following the leak in May of a draft opinion showing the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade, Masters said he didn’t think leaving abortion policy to the states went far enough.
“I think the 14th Amendment says you have the right to life, liberty and property,” he said at an event in Carefree, Ariz., according to HuffPost. “You can’t deprive someone with that without due process. Hard to imagine a bigger deprivation of due process than killing a small child before they have a chance to take their first breath. So I think you do need a federal personhood law.”
A federal personhood law would give full constitutional protections to fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses. As of Thursday morning, Masters’s campaign website also used fetal personhood language, reading, “I am 100% pro-life" and noting his support for "a federal personhood law (ideally a constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed."
But later that day, per NBC News, the website had been scrubbed of that language. Additionally, the Masters campaign removed the line "Remove funding for any research that uses embryonic stem cells of aborted fetal remains” and edited down the promise to "Strip taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood, all other abortionists, and any organization that promotes abortion."
In an interview earlier this month with the Arizona Republic, Masters said the personhood law would ban only late-term abortions and that he was “OK with” Arizona’s current ban on abortion after 15 weeks. It’s a contrast to last year, when he said support for abortion rights had become “demonic” and likened the procedure to “religious sacrifice.” Masters had once supported abortion rights from the view of a “classic, extreme libertarian,” according to friends, and equated being “pro-choice” with being “pro-freedom.”
The hard pivot from Masters comes as polling shows him consistently trailing Kelly, often by double digits. It serves as another sign of the effect that the Supreme Court's stripping away of abortion rights from millions of Americans could have on November’s midterm elections. Earlier this month, voters in Kansas rejected an anti-abortion amendment by nearly 20 points, while voters in a special election in a New York swing district chose the Democrat who had based his campaign around the issue of reproductive rights.
Masters won the Republican nomination in Arizona after millions in funding from billionaire Peter Thiel. He has promoted the conspiracy theory that Democrats are plotting to win elections by “importing” immigrants to replace native-born voters; called the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, a “false flag operation,” claiming that “one-third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on January 6 were actual FBI agents hanging out”; and has blamed “Black people, frankly” for America’s “gun violence problem.”
Masters isn’t the only Republican Senate candidate to have reoriented his campaign toward swing voters for the general election. Last month, the Republican Senate nominee in Ohio, J.D. Vance, told NBC News it made sense to “let the states decide this stuff” in reference to abortion. Previously, Vance had said he would like “abortion to be illegal nationally,” argued against the need for rape and incest exceptions in abortion laws and compared abortion to slavery.
In Pennsylvania, GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano has kept quiet on abortion since winning the May primary. Shortly after taking office as a state senator in 2019, Mastriano introduced a bill that would have banned abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. At a primary debate this year, he said he would not allow exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.