DeGroot: Sherrill Wants to use Abortion as a ‘Wedge Issue’

Paul DeGroot acknowledges many Republicans are afraid to talk about abortion.

But not him.

DeGroot, the GOP candidate in CD-11, convened a press conference call Thursday to say he’s happy to leave abortion policy to the states.

If elected, he would not support a nationwide abortion ban, nor would he endorse legislation permitting abortions nationwide.

Or as he put it a few times, he has no interest in sending New Jersey values to Alabama or South Carolina, nor bringing the values of those states to New Jersey.

DeGroot, who is challenging Mikie Sherrill, was a bit reluctant to offer his personal views on abortion. But he did say there should always be exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother. And he said he would be comfortable with allowing abortions through the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

He said of Sherrill, “She wants to use abortion as a wedge issue baked in fear, but I believe it’s a state’s rights issue. I’m a pragmatic conservative who will not vote in lock step with one party, but in lockstep with the people of New Jersey.”

In truth, abortion is a “wedge” issue whether candidates like it or not.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June has made reproductive rights a major issue in the midterm election. Democrats, most of whom support abortion rights, have so far benefitted as their poll numbers have improved since the ruling. More tellingly, the abortion issue probably helped Democrats win a special House election last month in a competitive New York state district. There was also a special election over the summer in Kansas, a conservative state, where almost 60 percent of voters supported abortion rights.

So there may be good reason for some Republicans, who long have supported pro-life and anti-abortion initiatives, to be reticent about the issue.

DeGroot deserves credit for wading into such treacherous waters. More so when you consider his endorsement of state’s rights in a state where abortion is legal may ruffle some of the district’s more ideological conservatives. Some Republicans, most notably Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have proposed a federal law restricting abortion.

DeGroot also used the occasion to lambaste Sherrill on a few fronts.

He said it is the Democrat who is the “extremist,” because she “voted for a bill allowing late term abortion and to stop parental notification if a minor tries to have an abortion.”

DeGroot also condemned Sherrill campaign mailers that he said allege he is a radical who opposes abortion at all times.

Not true, he said, adding, “When it comes to a woman’s right to choose, I believe in a sensible solution that aligns with the majority of North Jersey on abortion.”

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Sherrill campaign released a digital ad on abortion a short time before DeGroot’s conference.

It featured Maxine, a veteran nurse from Livingston, who said that in 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade, a 17-year-old woman “died in my arms” after having an illegal abortion.

The point of the Sherrill campaign was clear. Such a thing can happen again in states that ban, or severely restrict, abortion. Which is why congressional action to permit abortion nationwide is a must; rules that differ from state to state are not the answer.

DeGroot was asked about this from the perspective that he’s seeking to serve in Congress, a body that has legislative responsibility over the entire country.

He didn’t take the bait, answering:

“I’m about representing New Jersey’s Congressional District 11.”

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