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Attack ad exaggerates Ted Budd's involvement in anti-abortion bill
If Your Time is short
- The ad refers to a bill known as the “Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021" and accurately represents its contents.
- U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., was an original co-sponsor of the bill, but there's no evidence he "helped write" it.
- Budd and Rep. Mike Kelly, the Pennsylvania Republican who introduced the bill, both denied that Budd was an author.
A new political ad claims that North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate helped write a proposal for tighter federal abortion regulations, showing that he’s way out of step with most residents’ opinions on abortion.
The ad attacks U.S. Rep. Ted Budd over a bill introduced last year. It praises Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley, who the ad says will stand up for reproductive rights. It was produced by the Women Vote Project, an arm of Emily’s List, a group advocating for women’s issues. The ad says:
"Sometimes it feels like we can’t agree on anything, except this: 85% of North Carolinians think abortion should be legal for women who need it. Ted Budd isn’t one of them. He helped write legislation to outlaw abortion nationwide with no exceptions for rape or incest — a law that could even put doctors in jail. There’s a better choice: Cheri Beasley. She’ll always protect our personal freedoms."
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling pushed reproductive rights to the forefront of many campaigns this midterm election season. The decision leaves it up to states to set their own abortion laws.
The ad’s claim about North Carolinian’s support for abortion rights is based on a recent poll. But it’s worth noting that PolitiFact analyses of abortion polling have generally found that survey results can vary significantly depending on how pollsters frame and ask questions.
Although Budd co-sponsored and supported the anti-abortion bill referenced in this ad, we found its characterization of him as bill author to be an overreach.
The ad says Budd "helped write legislation to outlaw abortion nationwide with no exceptions for rape or incest," and refers to a bill known as H.R. 705, or the "Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021," which was introduced on Feb. 2, 2021. It never became law or even came up for a vote.
The bill called for a ban of abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which typically happens around six weeks — sometimes before women know they’re pregnant. Although the bill carves out an exception if the mother’s life is "endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself."
The bill doesn’t mention exceptions for rape and incest, as media outlets have noted. The bill also says physicians who perform abortions outside of the bill’s limitations would be fined or "imprisoned not more than five years, or both."
The ad says Budd "helped write" the bill. The Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021 was introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and co-sponsored by more than 120 other Republicans. Budd is listed as one of the bill’s 40 original sponsors — a sign that Budd supported the bill before its introduction, said Benjamin Ray, an Emily’s List spokesperson.
There’s no formal definition of "original co-sponsor" that captures whether or not — or to what extent — a U.S. House member helped write a bill, said Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a research and policy center in Washington, D.C. In other words, just because Budd was an original co-sponsor doesn’t mean he helped write it.
While Budd’s office may have reviewed the bill before its introduction, PolitiFact North Carolina found no evidence that he "helped write" it.
A Budd campaign spokesperson didn’t dispute that Budd supported the measure, but said the senate candidate didn’t write it. "If Ted had written the legislation, I would say Ted wrote the legislation," campaign spokesman Jonathan Felts told PolitiFact in an email.
Kelly’s office also rebutted the ad’s claim. "U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is the lead author of H.R. 705, The Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021," Kelly spokesman Matt Knoedler said. "Mr. Budd is among 123 co-sponsors of the bill, but it was Mr. Kelly and our team who wrote the legislation."
Bills nearly identical to H.R. 705 — also called the Heartbeat Protection Act — were introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and co-sponsored by Budd in 2017 and 2019.
The ad also refers to a bill Budd co-sponsored known as H.R. 1011, or the "Life at Conception Act," and a Bloomberg Law article from May. The Life at Conception Act would grant legal protections at the embryonic state, starting at fertilization. The Bloomberg Law article explains how criminalizing abortion could have a dramatic effect on women and people going through fertility treatments to get pregnant, said Ray, the Emily’s List spokesperson.
The Women Vote Project announced the launch of its ad Sept. 9. Four days later, Budd was one of more than 120 House members who co-sponsored a bill that would institute a national law banning abortions after 15 weeks. Unlike the bill mentioned in the Emily’s List ad, the proposal would grant exceptions for rape and incest, as well as the life of the mother. The proposal was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
In 2017, he co-sponsored H.R. 586, also known as the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which proposed to define life as "fertilization, cloning, or its equivalent, at which time every human has all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood."
The ad says the bill Budd co-sponsored is out of step with the views of North Carolinians. It cites a poll commissioned by the politically conservative John Locke think tank. The results, released in August, show that 85% of respondents believe that abortion should be totally or mostly legal — or, at the very least, legal in certain cases. The ad bases its claim on that survey alone. Polling experts discourage the use of single surveys to represent a consensus view of an issue. Still, the John Locke results aren’t far off from responses to similar polls, such as one from WGHP-TV, The Hill political website and Emerson College researchers, and one by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This year, Budd was asked whether he supports abortion in cases of rape and incest. He told WNCN-TV: "I want to look at it broadly. First of all, when a person finds themself in that type of situation, let's just admit right up front, regardless of what your political background is or what party you're with, that it's a tragedy when somebody finds himself there. And I want to say, why would you want to add a second tragedy to an already very tough situation? I don't condemn anybody that's ever been through that. But I want to say let's not add more tragedy to a very tough situation."
In an email, Budd campaign spokeswoman Samantha Cotten accused Beasley of being out of touch and that Budd’s campaign has "always been transparent that Ted is pro-life."
An ad from Women Vote Project says Budd "helped write legislation to outlaw abortion nationwide with no exceptions for rape or incest — a law that could even put doctors in jail."
Although the ad accurately describes the details of the Heartbeat Protection Act, it misstates Budd’s involvement. He sponsored the bill, meaning he supported it. But Budd’s campaign says he didn’t help write it.
The claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details. That’s our definition of Half True.
Email exchange with Benjamin Ray, a spokesperson for Emily’s List.
Email exchanges with Jonathan Felts and Samantha Cotten, spokespeople for the Ted Budd for U.S. Senate campaign.
Press release from Emily’s List, "Women Vote Invests $2.7 Million Supporting Cheri Beasley in North Carolina," posted Sept. 9, 2022.
Press statement and poll results released by the John Locke Foundation on Aug. 18, 2022.
H.R. 586, also known as the Sanctity of Human Life Act.
H.R. 705, also known as the "Heartbeat Protection Act of 2021."
H.R. 1011, also known as the "Life at Conception Act."
H.R. 8814, also known as the "Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act."
Congressional Research Service handbook, "Sponsorship and Co-sponsorship of House Bills," updated Feb. 18, 2021.
WESA, "Western Pa. congressman's federal abortion-ban proposal gains support after Supreme Court ruling," posted July 5, 2022.
Mississippi Free Press, "Rep. Michael Guest pushes national six-week abortion ban with no rape exceptions," posted July 20, 2022.
Video by CBS17, "CBS 17’s Russ Bowen talks 1-on-1 with Rep. Ted Budd," posted April 25, 2022.
Axios, "These GOP Senate candidates oppose most exceptions to abortion bans," posted May 8, 2022.
FiveThirtyEight, "Lindsey Graham’s Abortion Ban Is Dividing GOP Senate Candidates In Swing States," posted Sept. 19, 2022.
Press statement, "Kelly introduces legislation to prevent abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected," released by Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania on Feb. 4, 2021.
Poll by WRAL-TV and SurveyUSA released on June 13, 2022.
Article by WUNC, "Poll: Strong support in South for abortion in cases of rape, severe birth defects," posted Sept. 15, 2022.
Winthrop University, "August 2022 Southern Focus Survey" results, updated Sept. 15, 2022.
Pew Research Center, "America’s abortion quandary," published May 6, 2022.
Kaiser Family Foundation, "Abortion knowledge and attitudes: KFF polling and policy insights," posted Jan. 22, 2020.
Susan B. Anthony’s Pro-Life America scorecard for Rep. Ted Budd.
Bloomberg News, "Abortion-travel bans are ‘next frontier’ with Roe set to topple," posted May 4, 2022.
Bloomberg Law, "Alito draft would allow for sweeping state action on abortion," posted May 4, 2022.
WGHP-TV, "Most North Carolina voters support abortion access, new poll finds," posted May 12, 2022; "North Carolina poll: Where does NC stand on abortion, student loan forgiveness and Medicaid?" posted Sept. 19, 2022.
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Attack ad exaggerates Ted Budd's involvement in anti-abortion bill
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