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The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s backup for the claim relies heavily on Barnes’ comments about codifying Roe v. Wade — not abortion up until the moment of birth.
For his part, Barnes had not been entirely clear on his position on this question — until we pushed his campaign to be more precise.
In any case, there has not been any recent change, as the claim suggests, much less one with this level of specificity.
With less than three weeks left until the Nov. 8 election, abortion continues to figure at the forefront of major debates and talking points for the two candidates for U.S. Senate: Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes, the lieutenant governor.
For instance, we rated Pants on Fire a claim from Restoration PAC that Barnes supports killing "preemies" – infants born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy.
And we rated Mostly False a claim from Barnes that, in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, "Ron Johnson just came out in favor of a federal abortion ban."
Now comes this claim from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in an Oct. 6 news release: "Mandela Barnes came out in favor of abortion up until the moment of birth."
That’s not exactly true, either.
When asked for evidence, the committee, which works to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate, pointed to two things directly tied to Barnes: a 2021 retweet and part of a speech he made at a Democratic Senate candidate forum sponsored by the Jewish Democratic Council of America in June of 2022.
On Dec. 3, 2021, Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted: "Right now, there's a bill in the Senate that would write Roe v. Wade into law. Let’s not wait any longer. Codify it. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act now."
That same day, Barnes retweeted it, adding this comment: "What Senator Klobuchar said (with an arrow icon) we can’t wait any longer. Roe needs to be signed into law."
The NRSC also cited this quote from the speech (the committee provided PolitiFact Wisconsin the video):
"With Roe under attack, we need to abolish the filibuster and we need to codify Roe v. Wade once and for all. I will tell you, to answer a previous question, I will never let archaic Senate procedure stand in the way of our basic human rights. We deserve elected leaders who will go to the mat to protect abortion rights and that is exactly what I will do."
So, both cases amount to Barnes saying he wants to put into law the standards that existed under Roe v. Wade. But before the Supreme Court overturned Roe, there was not unfettered access to abortion up until birth.
We noted in an Oct. 4 fact-check that "seeking to make Roe the law of the land is not the same as supporting abortion up until birth." The item noted:
"Even when Roe was in place, it didn’t greenlight abortion at any time during a pregnancy. It included a viability restriction, asserting that states couldn’t impose significant restrictions on abortion access before the fetus became viable — usually around 24 weeks’ gestational age.
What’s more, the NRSC was unable to point directly to any statements in which Barnes says what they say he said. Nor have they cited any recent change in position as the claim suggests.
The closest they have cited is an article posted Oct. 5 by the Eau Claire Leader Telegram which noted of Barnes: "In questions with the media after the session, Barnes rejected the idea of a timeframe cap where abortion would be banned, whether it is 16 weeks, 20 weeks, or later into a pregnancy."
It was a paraphrase of whatever was stated. The Barnes campaign said they did not have audio of the exchange.
So, in short, Barnes has not done himself any favors when it comes to clarity on this particular point.
After the Oct. 7 debate between Barnes and Johnson, when WISN-TV asked Barnes whether he supported a woman being allowed an abortion up until birth, Barnes’ response was: "Well, I'll tell you that's a decision that should be made between a woman (and) her doctor, I don't have the medical credentials to make that decision."
Then asked if that was "yes or a no," he said: "I think most members of Congress don't have the medical credentials to make that decision. And unfortunately, we have uninformed people who get to impose their own personal views on women and that's just not right."
After several requests to clarify the position, Maddy McDaniel, Barnes’ spokesperson, sent us a statement that criticized Johnson and "D.C. cronies" who are backing him and included this:
"Lt. Governor Barnes does not support abortion up until birth — he would vote to codify Roe v. Wade, which ensured women and doctors have the freedom to make the decisions that protect their health and safety."
The NRSC claimed Barnes "came out in favor of abortion up until the moment of birth."
The evidence provided by the NRSC does not support the claim they made, but rather conflates both the issue of Roe v. Wade and abortion up until the moment of birth. That being said, Barnes has turned away opportunities to make his views even more clear, and by — according to the Eau Claire report — rejecting a cap, leaves listeners fuzzy at best.
Finally, as we noted in the Barnes v. Johnson item, there is no recent change in position, as the claim suggests.
Our definition of Mostly False is "The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
That’s what we rate this claim.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The final Wisconsin U.S. Senate debate between Johnson, Barnes will center on abortion. Here are their views, Oct. 13, 2022.
National Republican Senatorial Committee, news release, Oct. 6, 2022.
Jewish Democratic Council of America Democratic Senate Candidate Forum, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ speech, June 23, 2022.
Twitter, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Dec. 3, 2021.
The Eau Claire Leader Telegram, Barnes visits Eau Claire, discusses abortion access, Oct. 5, 2022.
PolitiFact, Says Mandela Barnes supports killing "preemies" – "infants born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy," Oct. 4, 2022.
WisPolitics, Barnes campaign: Statement on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2022.
Emails from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Oct. 12, 2022.
Email statement from Mandela Barnes’ spokesperson, Maddy McDaniel, Oct. 14, 2022.
Justia, Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), accessed Sept. 30, 2022.
Axios, "How late in pregnancy each state allows abortions," June 24, 2022.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Is abortion legal in Wisconsin? Here's how the overturning of Roe v. Wade affects Wisconsin abortion laws," June 24, 2022.
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