Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Friday that she personally opposes provisions in the new Alabama law that outlaws virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, but defended the range of views on abortion within her party.
“Personally, I would have the exceptions,” McDaniel said during an interview on CNN. “That’s my personal belief. But we are a party that is a broad tent. If you agree with us 80 percent of the time, I want you to be a Republican. We don’t have a litmus test as to whether you can belong to our party.”
The new antiabortion law in Alabama, the strictest in the country, has divided Republicans and put them on the defensive on the issue. Republicans had been playing offense by casting Democrats as extreme because of a recent New York law expanding access to late-term abortion — a move McDaniel criticized Friday.
In addition to not including exceptions for rape or incest, the Alabama law also allows a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions.
The law is certain to be challenged in federal court, and supporters hope it could provide an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The national GOP platform plank on abortion contains no exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Republicans in Washington were largely silent about the Alabama law when it passed earlier this week but have been fielding questions about it from reporters in recent days.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday that he opposes the Alabama, arguing that it “goes further than I believe.”
“I believe in exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, and that’s what I’ve voted on,” McCarthy said at a weekly news conference.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was more reserved in his criticism when speaking to reporters Friday.
He noted that he has supported an exception for the life of the mother but said states craft their own abortion laws.
“I was very proud of the fact that when I was in the [state] legislature, Louisiana was rated as the most pro-life of the states in the country,” Scalise said. “It’s something I’m proud of. . . . Ultimately each state has to debate this and determine what they want to have on the books, but also what does the court allow and how can we push to protect life even more — recognizing that the courts will sometimes pull that back.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) also parted ways with Alabama lawmakers on the issue, although he did not specifically weigh in on the new law.
“Leader McConnell’s record has been clear for decades on this issue. He opposes abortion except in the instance of rape, incest, or the life of the mother in is danger,” McConnell’s spokesman, Doug Andres, said in a statement on Thursday.
When asked by reporters in Wisconsin on Thursday about the Alabama law, Vice President Pence did not provide a direct answer.
He said that “many states around the country are embracing life” and said he is “proud to be part of a pro-life administration.” Pence also lamented that states such as New York are adopting what he characterized as “extreme pro-abortion legislation.”
Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.