Lowden’s evolving views on abortion

In 1993, a GOP state senator named Sue Lowden expressed to a reporter support for Roe v. Wade on the 20th anniversary of the decision. Lowden had just been elected from a heavily Democratic district two years after the state’s voters overwhelmingly embedded abortion rights in statute — a referendum Lowden acknowledged Tuesday she supported.

In 2009, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate named Sue Lowden told a conservative publication, Human Events, that Roe v. Wade was a “bad decision.” The comment came after a primary opponent, Danny Tarkanian, had been portraying himself for months as the real anti-abortion candidate to a conservative GOP electorate that will choose a Republican nominee in June.

If circumstantial evidence is to be believed, Lowden is easily convicted of not one, but perhaps two acts of political convenience, tacking left when it was advantageous and then shifting right when the race called for it.

But is it really that simple? Is anything that simple when it comes to abortion, which shreds nuance for absolutism and engenders the most strident, nasty rhetoric of almost any issue — and that’s just from litmus-test-seeking interest groups?

Lowden’s shifting position on the seminal court decision comes amid what will become an increasingly and publicly (mark my words) vitriolic GOP primary for the right to depose Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the race national Republicans most want to win in 2010. Even though it seems apparent to some that Lowden would be the strongest general election contender, despite the expected equivocations from a National Republican Senatorial Committee insisting it hails from Zurich, Little Tark seems intent on tarnishing Snow White as not being conservative enough. And what better issue to use than abortion, where Tarkanian claims he is against it except when the life of the mother is endangered.

Lowden insisted her evolution is personal and not political, providing me with a lengthy statement and declining to speak on the record beyond it.

“I am pro-life and I will defend life as a U.S. senator,” the statement began. “Nearly two decades ago, when the issue outlined in this article was brought to the floor of the Nevada state Senate, I did not (her italics and boldface) stand to demonstrate support for the Roe v. Wade decision. Further, as a parent and state senator, I helped lead the effort on parental notification legislation. Unfortunately, that bill was defeated on the floor. I adamantly oppose any taxpayer-funded abortion as is required in the Reid health care bill, and I strongly oppose the practice of partial-birth abortion.”

Lowden correctly states her actual voting record — she has never cast a vote in favor of abortion rights — except for that 1990 vote for the abortion rights referendum. But her comment about not standing on the Senate floor to salute Roe v. Wade is disingenuous because other senators in favor of abortion rights were caught off-guard by then-Minority Leader Dina Titus’ call for everyone to stand. Indeed, in a contemporaneous story, Lowden declared, “I just choose not to stand. Standing or not standing is not a litmus test of how you feel about the choice issue.” That is, it was more anti-Titus than anti-choice.

Lowden’s statement goes on to say that her evolution in position came about after she became more of a strict constructionist. “The issue of Roe, I have come to believe, contradicts this important amendment to our U.S. Constitution,” she stated. “That has not prevented some individuals and groups from considering me pro-choice because I do believe that there should be exceptions on the abortion issue — such as protection of the life of the mother, and in cases of rape and incest.”

Lowden’s campaign clearly chafes at the demands placed on Republicans by anti-abortion endorsing groups and by some in the electoral universe who will be voting next June. But Tarkanian has found a wedge and he’s not afraid to use it, especially because he has the liberty of never having had to vote on the issue as an elected official.

(One note: Lowden’s campaign denies a 1996 Las Vegas Sun report that she tried to get abortion out of the platform in the state convention and she insists she voted at the national convention to keep it in.)

Unfortunately for Lowden, I can see the flip-flop ad in my mind’s eye, especially with the, ahem, abortion that was the 2008 state convention when she was chairman and her previous campaign contributions to Reid: “She was for abortion before she was against it. She was for Ron Paul’s people before she was against them. She was for Harry Reid before she was against him.”

In campaigns and trials, circumstantial evidence sometimes is all you need to get a conviction.

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