Joined by leaders with its Kentucky affiliate, National Right to Life on Wednesday endorsed Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for re-election next year.
The support from the anti-abortion organization is in sharp contrast to the backing of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes last month by the pro-choice group Emily’s List.
Speaking to reporters, National Right to Life president Carol Tobias says McConnell is an “irreplaceable” voice in the Senate as a GOP leader who has consistently backed their movement.
“Senator McConnell has been a key supporter of every major pro-life initiative to come before the U.S. Senate during his tenure, including legislation to protect un-born children at 20 weeks. That’s a point by which the un-born child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion techniques,” she says.
Tobias adds McConnell has also helped by blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees who support abortion rights.
Social issues haven’t been at the forefront of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate thus far. Poll numbers show voters are decidedly opposed to abortion, with just 39 percent saying it should be legal.
Anti-abortion activists in attendance argue McConnell has been a consistent proponent of their views since before his election to the Senate in 1984.
“Going back over some of our ‘Life Letters’ we have a section that said how he answered the questionnaire and as a member of Fiscal Court, voted for and as county judge signed our pro-life ordinance in 1978 restricting abortions at Jefferson County hospitals,” says Margie Montgomery, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life. “So Mitch McConnell’s pro-life record goes quite a way back, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re so proud of him.”
Earlier this year, however, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth told the Huffington Post that he recalls McConnell being pro-choice when the two worked together as aides for former Sen. Marlow Cook in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
From Huffington Post:
John Yarmuth, another young reform-minded Republican, crisscrossed the state with McConnell campaigning for Cook, and remembers McConnell as pro-choice and a supporter of Planned Parenthood. Yarmuth says that after his stint with Cook, McConnell boasted about his work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. Yarmuth himself is now serving a fourth term in the House of Representatives, after switching parties to become a Democrat in the mid-1980s.
A Yarmuth spokesperson says the congressman stands by his recollection of those events.
The McConnell campaign has not responded to our request for comment about the HuffPo profile.
Asked whether being pro-choice at one point impacts Right to Life’s view of McConnell, Tobias said she was unaware of any past support in the senator’s personal life. But she says times have changed considerably since then.
“And many, many, many years ago Planned Parenthood wasn’t pro-abortion and weren’t doing abortions,” says Tobias. “They are now the largest provider of abortions in the United States. And people who may be did support them many years ago—and I don’t know anything about Sen. McConnell so I can’t speak directly to that—but many people who did have changed because that organization changed.”