Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2010

October 7, 2010

Ad Watch: Attack on Snyder scores foul

• Who: Michigan Democratic Party

• What: "Snyder Has an Extreme Agenda on a Woman's Right to Choose" TV Ad

QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS

"Rick Snyder's millions on TV are hiding an extreme agenda. Look closer, you'll see he'll make the government ban abortion. Even when it puts women's health in terrible danger."

Snyder has spent $6.5 million so far on his gubernatorial bid. He is pro-life, but he has never said that he'd sign a bill outlawing the procedure. Abortion was legalized in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. Only one governor in the country has signed a bill banning abortion, but South Dakota voters twice rejected the measure in 2006 and 2008.

Governors also may sign legislation restricting access or banning certain techniques. Michigan already has several restrictions on the books, like parental notification and a waiting period. A bill banning so-called partial birth abortions has failed three times, but Snyder has said he would sign a bill if it met standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ad cites three media sources taken from the time of the gubernatorial primary to support this claim. The first is a July 2010 story from the Kalamazoo Gazette, which is actually a reprint of an Annarbor.com story by Nathan Bomey that Snyder posts on his campaign website. Bomey writes, "He said he believes abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger." The ad also cites Snyder's February 2010 interview on WKAR-TV's "Off the Record" and a Detroit Free Press story based on that show. Snyder said he opposes abortion except in those three cases.

Snyder does not support an exception for the mother's health, something he confirmed again in September in the Center for Michigan's story, "Abortion and the governor's race." However, insinuating that Snyder believes in putting "women's health in terrible danger" is a scare tactic, as is claiming his is an "extreme" agenda.

Abortion is not Snyder's top priority. When the Center for Michigan asked him how important abortion would be in his administration, spokesman Bill Nowling said, "Rick believes that we can reduce the number of abortions performed in this state by implementing a strong and effective economic plan that will put people back to work and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders. It is critically important that we address these issues."

The attack on Snyder as "extreme" on abortion comes after he was the only GOP gubernatorial candidate who did not court Right to Life's endorsement, although he was endorsed by the smaller Pro-Life Federation.

Right to Life also attacked Snyder in the primary as "deceiving" voters that he's pro-life. Snyder also supports embryonic stem cell research, which Right to Life opposes.

"Snyder's new government ban could actually put doctors in jail."

While the ad doesn't say Snyder would jail doctors, it says he "could." We don't know what a ban on abortion in Michigan would look like. Although he's pro-life, Snyder hasn't committed to any specific legislation or said he supports jailing doctors. The only example out there is South Dakota's law, which voters shot down, and it did make it a felony to perform an abortion except when the mother's life is in danger.

"Virg Bernero trusts women. As a husband and father of two daughters, Bernero's pro-choice, and Planned Parenthood says Bernero stands with us. For Bernero, this issue is personal. Too personal for government to have a say."

Bernero is married and has two daughters. He has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood. This implies that Bernero trusts women more than Snyder does because of their differing positions on abortion, something that can't be proven.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This is the third ad by the Michigan Democratic Central Committee in the governor's race and the second attack ad on Snyder. The use of dramatic music and black-and-white shots of Snyder are fear-mongering. And it attempts to play on anti-government sentiment to help Bernero. Snyder hasn't stressed abortion and was the only GOP gubernatorial candidate who didn't meet Right to Life's endorsement criteria, so it's an interesting tactic.

The language used in the ad is clever. Snyder is pro-life and only supports exceptions for rape, incest and the mother's life. While he has never come out and said he would "make the government ban abortion," something that's only been tried in one other state and failed twice, he does support a ban on so-called partial birth abortions.

Snyder never said if he would sign legislation that would jail doctors for performing abortions, but the ad says he "could" do so. However, the viewer is left with the distinct impression that Snyder would make all abortions illegal and toss doctors in jail.

TRUTH SQUAD CALL

Technical Foul for claiming Snyder's position on abortion is "extreme." Opposing abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and the mother's health is a pretty nuanced and mainstream position.

By the Center for Michigan, a centrist think-and-do tank founded by former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power.

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