Heading into the first weekend of the three-week runoff campaign, Republican gubernatorial hopefuls on Friday continued to spar over abortion rights and funding.
This time it was former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal on the defensive about a vote he made in 1993 that authorized $470 million in grants and contracts for family planning services. Deal, as well as Georgia Right to Life, a leading abortion rights opposition group, have been critical of Karen Handel over a vote she made while on Fulton County Commission that approved about $400,000 to go to Planned Parenthood.
Deal and Handel will face off on Aug. 10 in the Republican runoff.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said he was still researching the bill from 1993, which was first reported Friday by Erick Erickson on his conservative blog RedState.com. Erickson, who also founded popular Georgia Republican blog PeachPundit, is supporting Handel for governor.
But, Robinson acknowledged “there seems to be a vote here that sticks out from his record. But Nathan has always been pro-life.”
Handel, meanwhile, continued to accuse Georgia Right to Life of distorting her positions. At an appearance with Deal at a lunch of Cobb County Republican women on Friday, Handel said GRTL is “wrong on the issue of in vitro fertilization. They’re wrong on fertility treatments. They’ve also been grossly misstating my beliefs on this issue.”
Handel supports fewer restrictions on in vitro fertilization and fertility treatments. GRTL advocates more restrictions.
On Thursday, Handel said two top GRTL leaders should resign over comments critical of her and of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has endorsed Handel.
At the Cobb County event on Friday, both candidates were asked to define what it means to be “pro-life.”
“My definition is someone who believes in the sanctity of life,” Deal said. “Someone who believes life begins at conception. Someone who will fight to protect innocent life.”
Deal said he has a “100 percent voting regard in that regard.”
But, in 1993, Robinson said, when the vote was taken, Deal had a 89 percent record from abortion opposition groups. In more recent years he’s had a top rating from those groups.
Handel told the Cobb County women that “it’s no secret that I have a little different perspective.”
“I am an absolute, pro-life Christian,” Handel said. “I do believe life begins at conception. I also believe, however, that as a policymaker, that while we strive to save every unborn baby we possibly can, we also have to look at every situation that’s out there. And for government to look in the face of the mother of a 13-year-old who has the bad fortune of having been raped and then became pregnant, and tell that mother what’s going to happen in her family, I think that’s between that family, their faith and God.”