Ross’ abortion-rights comments draw criticism


LITTLE ROCK — Democrat Mike Ross’ abortion rights comments in announcing his campaign for governor were in striking contrast to his anti-abortion record in Congress, a pair of Arkansas women’s groups and his Democratic challenger’s campaign charged Thursday.

The Ross campaign’s response did not address the criticism.

At campaign stops around the state Wednesday, Ross, the former 4th District congressman, assailed Republicans in the Legislature for pushing “divisive issues of the past” and said he would have done as Gov. Mike Beebe did in vetoing legislation to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The GOP-controlled Legislature overrode Beebe’s veto of a pair of abortion bills.

In a joint statement Thursday, officials of the Arkansas Democratic Hispanic Caucus and Pulaski County Democratic Women accused Ross of being part of a group of congressional politicians who waged a war on women.

“… In Congress, he voted in favor of an even stricter 20-week abortion ban that would have denied women medical care, even for victims of rape and incest,” the statement said. “He co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape so that it would have prevented women from getting needed medical care. He joined (Missouri Rep.) Todd Akin in trying to tell women what men considered to be legitimate rape.”

The statement said Ross was attempting to “whitewash” his record now that he is running for governor, and said the effort “is an additional insult to women’s intelligence and a true example of what he thinks of women.”

The statement was sent via email by Maria Baez de Hicks, vice president of the Arkansas Democratic Hispanic Caucus, and Lynette Vinson, corresponding secretary of the Pulaski Democratic Women.

Meanwhile, a campaign spokesman for former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who also is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, also mentioned the bill Ross co-sponsored with Akin to redefine rape, and noted that Ross twice voted in Congress to cut off government funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Women will be outraged to learn that Mike Ross now claims to be their champion when his own record clearly demonstrates otherwise,” Halter spokesman Bud Jackson said in an email. “Mike Ross talks about believing in Arkansas values, but yesterday he demonstrated a determined willingness to ignore those values when it served his own political ambition.”

Ross campaign spokesman Brad Howard released a statement Thursday that said Ross is pro-life and reiterated his comments Wednesday backing Beebe’s veto of GOP-sponsored abortion bills.