Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters softened his tone and deleted his website’s politics page on tough abortion restrictions on Thursday, as his party reeled from the decision of the United States Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade.
In a announcement posted on Twitter on ThursdayMasters sought to portray his opponent, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, as the hardliner on the issue while describing his own views as “common sense”.
“Listen, I support banning very late abortions and partial births,” he said. “And most Americans agree with that. It would just put us on a par with other civilized nations.” (Late abortions are extremely rare, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.)
Immediately after the announcement was published, the Masters campaign revamped its website and softened its rhetoric, rewriting or deleting five of its six positions. NBC News took screenshots of the website before and after it was modified. Masters’ website appeared to be updated after NBC News asked for clarification on his stance on abortion.
“I am 100% pro-life,” the Masters website read Thursday morning.
This language has now disappeared.
Another noteworthy deletion: a line that details his support for “a federal personality law (ideally a constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings who cannot be killed.”
The personality effort is an anti-abortion rights lawsuit that would grant the same legal rights and protections to fetuses, in some cases before viability, as any person. These fetal personality laws would make abortion murder and eliminate all or most exceptions to abortion provided in states where the procedure is strictly restricted, The New York Times reported.
In Arizona, a state law recognizing the personality of a fetus from the moment of fertilization is currently stalled in court. Masters did not specify on his campaign site when, during a pregnancy, he thought the personality would start, though his campaign pointed NBC News to recent comments in which he said he performed such federal law as applying to the third trimester of pregnancy.
In addition, Masters has previously expressed support for “the Protection of the Unborn Child Capable of Suffering Act, the Protection of Abortion Survivors Born Alive Act, the SAVE Moms and Babies Act and other pro-life laws”. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would make it a criminal offense to perform or attempt to perform an abortion 20 weeks after conception.
Now the website says it supports “a law or constitutional amendment that prohibits late (third trimester) abortion and partial-birth abortion at the federal level” and “pro-life legislation, pregnancy centers and programs that make it easier for pregnant women to support a family and decide to choose life.”
The Masters rollback is one of the clearest signs of the extent to which the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate federal abortion protections is blurring the political landscape, prompting Democrats to run at rates higher than expected in some flagship contests and flooding their candidates and campaign committees with small donations.
The Masters campaign highlighted an interview in which the candidate expanded on his views on abortion rights with The Arizona Republic earlier this month after winning a Republican primary that swung all conservatives to the right. The campaign did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about why the website was updated.
In that interview, Masters, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said he believed a federal “personality law” would work to ban all third-trimester abortions, though, as the the publication reported he had expressed support for the ban in February. earlier abortions. Speaking to The Arizona Republic, Masters added that Arizona’s impending ban on abortions after 15 weeks – with exceptions only for the life of the mother – is “reasonable”.
“The federal government should ban late-term abortion, third-trimester abortion, and partial-birth abortion,” he said. “Below, states are going to make different decisions that are going to reflect the will of the people of those states, and I think that’s the most reasonable. I think that’s what most people are certainly looking for in that state and in all the countries.”
In another example of language change, the Masters website included this pledge: “Withdraw taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood, all other abortionists, and any organization that promotes abortion.”
Now, the sentence no longer mentions “abortionists” – a term coined by opponents of abortion rights – or “any organization that promotes abortion”.
Another promise was completely removed from the website: “Remove funding from all research that uses embryonic stem cells from the remains of aborted fetuses.
“If Blake Masters thinks he can quietly remove passages from his website and cover up how out of touch and dangerous his stance on abortion is, he’s going to have a rude awakening,” Kelly’s spokeswoman said, Sarah Guggenheimer, in a statement to NBC News.
Masters is far from the only Republican to feel the impact of abortion politics on midterms. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel raised concerns about the post-Roe Democratic small-dollar advantage in a donor appeal Politico reported on Wednesday. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision this spring, McDaniel also worried about the energizing effect abortion could have for the left if Roe was overturned, according to two sources who had spoken with her in the past but spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations more freely.
“It’s a big fundraising issue because we’re seeing a huge push from the Democrat side,” one of the Republican sources said. “We didn’t expect the Democrats to sit down. We expected them to put on their jerseys. Now the candidates have to navigate the United States.”
In Arizona, a once-red Republican stronghold that is now a purple-turning state, voters opposed the Supreme Court’s decision 52% to 33%, according to an OH Predictive Insights poll this summer. Only a majority of Republicans were in favor while most independents sided with Democrats in opposition.
Chuck Coughlin, a Republican pollster from Arizona, said he just completed a voter survey that suggests Masters trails Kelly by 10 points. A recent Fox News investigation also revealed that Kelly gained 8 points.
“Abortion is a devastating issue for Republican candidates,” Coughlin said. “There are three constituencies that don’t like the Republican stance: women, independents, and voters over 64 — who are just sick of all the change and chaos and want to roll back.”
“What Mr. Masters finds is that there are no political startups,” he added of the venture capitalist tech mogul Peter Thiel spent millions to back . “You can’t make it up as you go.”
Masters won his primary earlier this month and began tying Kelly tightly to President Joe Biden in hopes of undermining his image as a moderate. Kelly’s campaign called Masters “dangerous.”
Kelly’s campaign holds a significant fundraising advantage over Masters, which emerged from a deadly primary.
Masters took aim at Kelly for voting for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which failed in the Senate earlier this summer. This legislation would have prohibited states from banning and criminalizing abortion anytime a woman’s health was in danger, a move that would need a doctor’s approval.