Mike Ross Shifts On Abortion As Campaign Begins for Arkansas Governor

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Apr. 26, 2013 4:06 pm  

Announcing his run for governor this month, Mike Ross criticized Arkansas legislators for adopting a 20-week abortion ban.

During Ross' final term in office, the National Right to Life Committee gave him a 100 percent rating after his vote on the 20-week ban, another vote to prohibit federal funding for teaching health centers to train doctors on how to perform abortions and his backing for a measure that would have made it a federal crime to perform or force a woman to undergo an abortion based on the sex of a fetus.

Ross also supported measures in 2011 aimed at cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, but had voted against a similar effort when it came up in 2009. A bill that would have barred Arkansas from awarding grants to entities that perform abortions or refer women to abortion providers cleared the state Senate this year, but failed before a House committee.

Ross said he supports maintaining public funding for Planned Parenthood and would have opposed the de-funding effort in the state Legislature.

"I fully support non-abortion related funding for Planned Parenthood so they can do what they do 97, 98 percent of the time, which is address women's health issues," he said.

Ross denies that he's had a change of heart on abortion issues and said he doubts his position pleases either side of the debate.

"Anyone who is a single issue voter on either side of this issue probably would not agree with where I am but I can tell you my view is the majority view of the people of this state," Ross said. "That is we're personally opposed to abortion, we're against state- and federal-funded abortions and we believe from a public policy standpoint that abortion should be safe, legal and rare."

Ross' shift comes as he's seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in a state where Republicans have made dramatic gains over the past two election cycles. Barth said Ross is given some political cover on the abortion shift by linking his stance to Beebe's vetoes of the 12-week and 20-week bans. Beebe, a Democrat who has remained popular in the state despite the Republican surge, cited legal concerns about both prohibitions in rejecting them.

NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Ross a "0'' rating for his last year in office and a 10 percent score the year before. Since 2009, Ross voted with the group on 2 of 14 bills it used to rate lawmakers.

"We're more than happy to welcome converts who understand that women's rights are about more than politics, and that votes like these affect women's lives and their futures," said Tarek Rizk, the group's director of communications. "If Rep. Ross has had a change of heart on these issues, we and the women of Arkansas would be thrilled to see his words translate to action."

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