Lincoln Chafee's Stance On Abortion Rights Is Surprisingly Pro-Choice, Given His Republican Past
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, announced his bid for the 2016 presidential nomination Wednesday afternoon. Though Chafee entered the race as a Democrat, he served as a Republican as a local legislator, mayor of Warwick, and U.S. senator, according to NPR. He left the GOP in 2007, and then won his one term as governor as an independent in 2010. He's flip-flopped a lot, so where does Chafee actually stand on abortion rights? He's actually pretty pro-choice, which is slightly surprising since he used to be a Republican.
Chafee was apparently the last liberal Republican to serve in the U.S. Senate, according to NPR. In 2003, he was the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq war, according to Bloomberg. His policy positions all seem fairly liberal. For example, he said he would focus his campaign on growing the middle class, raising the minimum wage, and supporting social programs such as Head Start. Some of his other priorities will include protecting the environment and protecting "personal liberties," such as freedom from phone searches and the right to an abortion.
Chafee has been recorded publicly supporting pro-choice abortion policies since the early 2000s, according to On The Issues. In 2000, he voted against banning privately-funded abortions at overseas military facilities, and, in 2003, he voted against banning late-term abortions. The late-term abortion ban also would have criminalized the procedure, putting doctors who performed the procedure in jail for up to two years and slapping them with fines.
During the 2006 Rhode Island Senate debate, the moderator asked Chafee and and his opponent, "What if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?," and Chafee gave quite the intersectional answer, according to On The Issues:
I have consistently voted against any federal attempt to ban women’s reproductive freedom and choices. If it’s left to the states, then only wealthy women will have access to abortions, if they have the resources to travel, whereas poor women would have to resort to the old days of difficult decisions.
He also voted against a bill that would have made it a criminal offense to harm or kill a fetus during the act of a violent crime. These kind of especially dangerous bills have also been called "personhood" bills, because they would grant legal rights attained by access to personhood status to an unborn fetus.
And his support for abortion rights doesn't seem to stop at any minimum age. He also voted against a measure that would've prohibited taking minors across state lines to circumvent laws that require the involvement of parents in abortion decisions, according to government documents cited by On The Issues.
Also important, Chafee voted to support a 2006 amendment that allocated $100 million to reduce teen pregnancy through education and contraceptives. The funds supported legislation that required equitable prescription coverage for contraceptives and education programs about the use of emergency contraceptives, according to On The Issues.
In his book, Against The Tide, Chafee said he understands that the debate on abortion is often more of an emotional one than a logical one:
In 1985, my home state convened a constitutional convention to reform and improve Rhode Island government from top to bottom. ... Abortion quickly became the central issue. A majority of my fellow delegates voted to prohibit abortion in Rhode Island. It was all for naught, given that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land; but reason had no place in the debate. ... One of our hundred delegates got down on his knees in the House chamber, clasped his hands, and beseeched us: Save the babies! Save the babies!
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