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GOP Candidates Scrub Anti-Abortion Positions From Campaign Sites After Kansas Referendum

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At least two Republican candidates (Blake Masters of Arizona and Tom Barrett of Michigan) quietly revised their websites' positions on abortion in August 2022.

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On August 28 2022, screenshots of tweets claiming that Republican candidates were hastily, and quietly, amending their positions on abortion from vocally supportive of widespread restrictions to a more nebulous stance:

Huh.  Is forced birth unpopular or something??

In the above tweet shared to Imgur, reporter Jonathan Cohn said that Michigan Republican Tom Barrett had concealed his position on abortion by changing his website in August 2022, not long after a Kansas referendum demonstrated overwhelming voter support for abortion rights.

In the preceding days, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters was also accused of “scrubbing” his website of evidence he supported restricting access to abortion:

GOP Candidates Scrub Anti-Abortion ...
GOP Candidates Scrub Anti-Abortion Positions From Campaign Sites After Kansas Referendum
Trump-backed Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters scrubs website of extreme anti-abortion stance as GOP frets over impact of Roe reversal on the midterms from politics

An August 28 2022 post to Reddit’s r/politics (above) linked to an BusinessInsider.com article about Masters’ efforts to conceal his initial position on abortion rights. That news organization explained that its records of Masters’ abortion position in May 2022 did not match his website as of August 25 2022:

US Senate candidate Blake Masters appears to have removed some of the more extreme anti-abortion stances from his website after securing the GOP nomination in Arizona earlier [in August 2022].

Masters, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won his primary on August 2 [2022] and is set to face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in November [2022].

Masters’ campaign website described him as “100% pro-life” and said he supported a “federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may be killed,” according to screenshots taken by Insider in May [2022].

But now, that language has been removed and his stance on abortion softened. NBC News reported the website was updated on [August 25 2022] this week.

On August 25 2022, NBC News reported on the changes to Masters’ campaign site, offering that “Masters’ backtracking is one of the clearest signs of how much the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate federal abortion protections is scrambling the political landscape”:

“Look, I support a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortion,” [Masters] said. “And most Americans agree with that. That would just put us on par with other civilized nations.” (Late-term abortions are extremely rare, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.)

Just after it released the ad, Masters’ campaign published an overhaul of his website and softened his rhetoric, rewriting or erasing five of his six positions. NBC News took screenshots of the website before and after it was changed. Masters’ website appeared to have been refreshed after NBC News reached out for clarification about his abortion stances.

“I am 100% pro-life,” Masters’ website read as of Thursday morning [August 25 2022].

That language is now gone.

Another notable deletion: a line that detailed his support for “a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.”

As stories highlighted changes to Masters’ website on August 25 2022, he appeared to attempt to conceal them, claiming that his political opponent was “lying.” In a Twitter thread, users responded with before and after screenshots of Masters’ revised statements:

As for Michigan politician Tom Barrett and the Imgur post, Cohn’s tweet linked to a paywalled Detroit News story of the purported changes:

However, Barrett’s website was easily accessed to retrieve his position on abortion as it appeared on August 29 2022, under “Issues” in a subsection labeled “Life.” It almost entirely deflected attention from Barrett’s position to that of his opponent, Elissa Slotkin:

While Senator Barrett has been a consistent pro-life state legislator, Elissa Slotkin supports some of the most extreme abortion policies of anyone in Congress. She opposes any limits, right up until birth, wants taxpayers to pay for abortions, and wants to take away a parent’s right to know if their minor daughter seeks an abortion.

Slotkin even led the fight to get Google to prevent women from having access to crisis pregnancy centers in search results.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine provided a copy of Barrett’s campaign site as it appeared on June 29 2022. A section initially titled “Values” (under “Issues”) stated Barrett’s opposition to abortion “from conception,” reading:

I am a Christian and I believe our elected leaders have a responsibility to represent the values our faith teaches. Protecting individual rights includes protecting the unborn. Ashley and I have been involved in the pro-life movement our entire lives and as an elected leader, I will always work to protect life from conception.

A popular August 28 2022 Imgur post claimed that Michigan Republican Tom Barrett “scrubbed” his position on abortion from his campaign website, a claim easily proved by contrasting the live site with archived copies from earlier in 2022. Barrett removed language explaining he sought to restrict abortion “from conception,” and the section instead focused on his opponent (Slotkin). Barrett’s about-face closely followed that of Arizona Republican Blake Masters, who removed language describing himself as “100% [anti-abortion]” and revealing support for a “federal personhood law.”