Abortion has been a tough topic for Blake Masters, as it has been for a number of GOP candidates this cycle. Republicans want to make clear to their base that they’re with them, but they don’t want to seem so extreme that they lose moderates and independents they need for November.
A telling example of the line they’re trying to walk came this week from Masters, who is running for Senate in Arizona.
On Tuesday, Masters went on a Phoenix-area radio show and said he supported a new Arizona law that bars abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“Arizona has decided 15 weeks, with all the common exceptions, and I’m not going to mess with that at the federal level,” he said on “The Gaydos and Chad Show.”
Masters made similar comments Wednesday on “The Guy Benson Show.”
“I always called for the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Send that issue back to the states. Arizona’s decided 15 weeks, with all the common exceptions. And I support that law,” he said. “I’m not going to mess with that at the federal level.”
But the Arizona abortion law that Masters says he supports does not have all those exceptions. That law ― which Masters claimed had “all the common exceptions” ― actually allows exceptions after 15 weeks only in cases of medical emergencies. There are no exceptions for rape and incest.
Masters’ campaign did not return a request for comment clarifying his remarks.
Masters has, quite frankly, been all over the place on abortion.
In May, Masters was far more willing to talk about abortion than other GOP candidates. He said that “at a minimum,” abortion should be left up to the states ― but he wanted to go further and embraced a federal personhood law.
“I think the 14th Amendment says you have the right to life, liberty and property,” he said at an event in Carefree, Arizona. “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.”
A federal personhood law would classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses as persons and give them full constitutional protections. It would criminalize all abortion, with no exceptions, and may also ban some forms of contraception.
And in January, he chided his fellow Republicans for being unwilling to embrace a national abortion ban: “What good is actually winning elections if you don’t do what you promised to do when you get in? ... I don’t think it’s enough to return it to the states.”
But since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Masters has been backtracking. He scrubbed his campaign website of language like “I’m 100% pro-life” and now tries to portray himself as well within the mainstream of public views on abortion.
“Look, I support a ban on very late-term and partial-birth abortion,” he said in August. “And most Americans agree with that. That would just put us on par with other civilized nations.” Doctors and medical experts have pushed back against using “late-term” to describe abortions, arguing that it has no basis in medical science.
While a number of Republicans don’t support exceptions for rape, incest and/or the health of the mother, many do ― in part because it’s more politically palatable.
But these exceptions are very rare and often hard to secure. Guidelines for receiving an exception can be vague and difficult to justify.
The Guttmacher Institute has also warned against focusing too much on abortion ban exceptions because it pits “good” abortions against “bad” ones. The reproductive rights organization says the best way to make sure pregnant people get the help they need is by “removing abortion bans and restrictions entirely.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.