Blake Masters nonetheless helps a nationwide abortion ban, however in the course of the third trimester

Battling in a toss-up race that could decide which party controls the US Senate, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., attacked his Republican opponent as being extreme on abortion.

Kelly claimed that political newcomer Blake Masters, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, “wants to pass a national ban on abortion.”

Kelly’s ad, which made other claims, appeared on Facebook and Instagram. Kelly won a 2020 special election for the Senate seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

The abortion claim is also made in a TV ad by Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate. Masters responded with an ad that attacks Kelly’s position on abortion, saying Kelly “is lying about my views on abortion.”

We found that Masters has softened his position on a so-called federal “personhood” law — one that argues that a fetus should have the constitutional rights of a person, and that abortion violates the fetus’ constitutional right to equal protection.

Such a law is often viewed as a complete or nearly complete ban on abortion.

Masters’ latest comments and revised campaign website still call for a federal abortion law, but he now says the law should prohibit abortion during a pregnancy’s third trimester.

“Personhood generally is about abortion bans. It’s been about abortion bans for the pro-life movement since the 1960s,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor, abortion historian and author of an upcoming book on personhood. “If you say you support personhood, you’re saying you support a nationwide ban. That’s the accepted meaning within the movement and within the culture.”

Masters’ position more vague during primary campaign

Masters repeatedly stated support for a federal personhood law before his primary victory Aug. 3. He was often vague about when during a pregnancy it would apply.

In a September 2021 interview, Masters said Congress “should have a debate and pick a certain point and say, ‘No, we’re going to recognize, right here, federal personhood and past that, absolutely no abortions.'”

In an interview in December 2021, Masters was asked whether he would support a national law banning abortion. He said: “Yeah, I mean life is always worth protecting. … Certainly I’m running for US Senate, at the federal level, I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and I do think we need a personhood amendment that recognizes (unintelligible) it’s a baby even before it’s born.”

At a February 2022 campaign event, Masters called for a federal personhood amendment and said Congress would determine when during pregnancy it would apply. “The federal government needs to step in and say, ‘We recognize life here and no state can permit abortions.’ That’s what I think offense on pro-life looks like,” he said, in comments that were also reported by The Arizona Republic.

In a February 2022 interview, Masters indicated support for a personhood law that would ban abortion relatively early in pregnancy, during the second or third month, The Arizona Republic reported.

Masters said at a May campaign event that the 14th Amendment “says you have the right to life, liberty and property,” the Huffington Post reported. “You can’t deprive someone with that without due process. Hard to imagine a bigger deprivation of due process than killing a small child before they have a chance to take their first breath. So, I think you do need a federal personhood law. ” Masters’ campaign issued the same quote to the Phoenix New Times for a June story.

On his campaign website, Masters previously said he would “support a federal personhood law, ideally a constitutional amendment, that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.” NBC News reported that the language was scrubbed from the site Aug. 25. The site’s new text includes saying Masters supports “a law or a constitutional amendment that bans late term — third trimester — abortion and partial-birth abortion at the federal level.”

Masters softens stance after winning nomination

Masters softened his position after winning the Republican nomination in August.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic for a news story published five days after his primary win, he said he backed a personhood law that would ban abortion nationally during the third trimester of pregnancy. The third trimester begins with the 27th week of pregnancy.

Here’s how the article frames it:

Masters said a federal ‘personhood law’ would help ban all third-trimester abortions. He said he views Arizona’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks — with exceptions for the life of the mother — is appropriate for his state.

“The federal government should prohibit late-term abortion, third-trimester abortion and partial-birth abortion,” he said. “Below that, states are going to make different decisions that are going to reflect the will of the people in those states, and I think that’s reasonable. I think that’s what most people certainly in this state and nationwide are looking for.

“I would look to Arizona’s (15-week) law and say I’m OK with it. I think it’s a reasonable solution, which reflects where the electorate is.”

Other Arizona news media also reported that Masters said in August that he supports a federal personhood law that would ban abortion nationally beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy, with an exception to save the life of the pregnant woman.

State versions of personhood vary

Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona have personhood laws, or anti-abortion laws that include a personhood provision.

But the personhood measures themselves don’t amount to an outright ban on abortion, and their impact on restricting abortion varies.

For example, Alabama voters adopted a state personhood constitutional amendment in 2018 declaring that the policy of the state is “the protection of the rights of the unborn child.” But it is Alabama’s 2019 criminal abortion law, which went into effect after the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, that bans abortion except to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious health risk to her.

Georgia’s law bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” exists, at about six weeks of pregnancy, and includes a personhood provision declaring that “natural persons include an unborn child.” The law says a woman can seek child support during pregnancy and allows her to claim an unborn child as a dependent on state income taxes.

Arizona in April 2021 adopted a law that acknowledges “on behalf of an unborn child at every stage of development,” starting at conception, “all rights” available to other people in the state.

In July 2022, a federal judge ruled that the law is unconstitutionally vague, and temporarily blocked it while a lawsuit challenging the law proceeds.

A federal personhood bill introduced in the US House in February 2021 is stalled under Democratic leadership.

Our ruling

Kelly said Masters “wants to pass a national ban on abortion.”

Masters repeatedly backed a federal personhood law, which is often viewed as a near or total ban on abortion, during his GOP primary. He was often vague about when during a pregnancy a ban would take effect, saying Congress should set the cutoff.

Masters softened his position after winning the Republican nomination, though he still supports a federal ban. Now, he is saying he would ban abortion nationally only during the third trimester.

Kelly’s statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it mostly true.

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