After months of avoiding a number of sensitive campaign issues, including her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in a recent interview reaffirmed her opposition to bans on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“Some of the bills being passed around the country are just very intrusive to personal decisions and very harmful to women and girls, you know, to their physical health and life. It's a shame,” Landrieu said, according to Politico.
Twenty "weeks is not the norm for being able to live outside of a hospital," she added.
The senator's decision to stake out a position on a topic as controversial as late-term abortion is curious considering that her re-election campaign is struggling in the face of tough opposition from her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy. It's possible that she's doubling down on issues important to the Democratic base as her best chance at re-election.
It's also possible that the senator felt it was necessary to go on the record prior to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signing a bill Thursday that will increase health standards on abortion clinics, a measure that Democratic abortion advocates have loudly protested.
Cassidy currently polls ahead of Landrieu, taking in 44.5 percent of the vote to her 42.3 percent, according to the latest data available from Real Clear Politics.
Landrieu is "clearly pro-abortion rights," Cassidy said in a separate interview.
"She has supported using U.S. taxpayer dollars for overseas abortions and most folks, even if they are pro-choice, don’t care for that," he added, referencing a 1997 vote to lift a ban on abortions at overseas U.S. military bases.
Nevertheless, and despite the fact that roughly 56 percent of Americans say they would support bans on abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Landrieu maintains that her current position is uniquely nuanced.
“Nothing on this subject is easy to explain. I have kind of a different record than most. I’ve voted against late-term abortion, I voted for access in the … pre-viability [period],” she said.
“Although I personally believe that life begins at conception, I believe the last place the government needs to be is in the church, in the doctor’s office or in the bedroom. And so even people who advocate for less government intrusion, like Gov. [Bobby] Jindal, get themselves in the most personal decisions a family could ever make,” she added.
The Weekly Standard's John McCormack took issue with the senator's "pre-viability" explanation.
“[M]edical studies show that 20 weeks after conception – the point at which the bill in question would ban most abortions – marks the beginning of viability for human beings,” he wrote, citing congressional testimony offered by Dr. Colleen Malloy of Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.
Landrieu recently declined to co-sponsor a bill in the Senate that would have banned late-term abortions, saying at the time that she believed the proposal was too strict, Politico reported.
For his part, Cassidy is confident that abortion will become a larger wedge issue in a race that will most certainly help decide whether the U.S. Senate flips back to Republicans.
“That will be one of the issues that people have to choose between the two of us,” Cassidy said. “We are a pro-life state. Obviously there’s some who are pro-choice; most are pro-life. We’re very Catholic, lots of evangelicals. So polls would show we’re a pro-life state.”