Jon Tester accuses Tim Sheehy of lying about abortion during first Senate campaign debate - TAI News
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Montana U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy appears in a campaign video posted to his Facebook page on March 30, 2024. (Tim Sheehy/Facebook)

In their first debate on June 9, Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and his Republican challenger, Tim Sheehy, were asked about reproductive rights. Sheehy responded by reiterating his support for abortion bans and by falsely claiming Tester wants public funding for abortion up until the moment of birth.

The candidates were about the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion previously affirmed in Roe v. Wade. Tester responded: “The bottom line: This is not a decision that should be made by politicians or bureaucrats or judges. This is a decision that should be made by the woman and her family, in consultation with her minister and her doctor. That’s who should be making these decisions. This freedom is on the line this election. … What I want to see is, I want to see Roe reinstated, the same way it worked for 50 years in my lifetime.”

Sheehy responded by lying about Tester’s position: “We need to apply common sense to all problems, and the vast majority of Montanans and Americans do not want abortion, paid for by the taxpayers, up to and including the moment of birth, elective abortions up to and including the moment of birth, healthy nine-month-year-old [sic] baby killed at the moment of birth. That’s what Jon Tester and the Democrats have voted for, that’s what they’ve put on the table time and again in the Women’s Health Care Act.”

“I’ll always protect the three rights for women: rape, incest, life of the mother,” Sheehy said. “At some point the life of the baby does matter. At some point, when the baby’s viable, when it can feel pain, when it can come out of the womb and be a healthy child to grow and become our next generation, that baby has rights too. And we have to have commonsense protections for the baby’s life as well.”

“For you to say that we’re killing babies at 40 weeks is total B.S.,” Tester responded. “The bottom line is, no one’s talking about government — taxpayer payment for abortions. What we’re talking about is who makes the decision.”

Tester has never advocated for abortion until the moment of birth, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, of which Tester is a co-sponsor and to which Sheehy seemed to be referring, would allow states to restrict abortion late in pregnancy except in cases of serious medical risk to the pregnant patient. Claims that the bill to restore Roe’s protections would allow abortion until the moment of birth have been widely debunked.

Tester has a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, demonstrating full support for sexual and reproductive health. 

Sheehy has touted an endorsement from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and indicated he would back a ban from the point “when a baby can feel pain.” Though scientific studies show a fetus cannot experience pain until after at least 24 weeks of pregnancy, anti-abortion activists have argued it can as early as 12 weeks’ gestation.

Polls show most Montanans agree with Tester. A February 2023 survey by the Democratic polling firm Searchlight Research found 60% of the state’s likely voters believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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