Truth Test: Punishing women for abortion?

Democrats want voters in the 6th Congressional District to think Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) wants to “punish women.”

KUSA – Democrats want voters in the 6th Congressional District to think Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) wants to “punish women.”

The ad was paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It claims Donald Trump would punish women who sought abortions if the procedure became illegal.

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And it accuses Coffman of trying to redefine rape to exclude statutory rape victims and those who were drugged.

CLAIM: Like Donald Trump, Mike Coffman would “punish women”

VERDICT: Misleading

This claim is all about abortion, and while both Coffman and Trump share a belief that the nation should have more laws against abortion, they don’t share the same record on whether the law should “punish” women who get abortions.

After showing both Trump and Coffman on screen, the ad attempts to justify this claim by next showing video of Trump embracing the idea that women who get abortions should be punished for doing so if abortion became illegal.

But Coffman has never embraced that same line of thinking.

Trump’s comments came in a town hall meeting moderated by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

Here’s the exchange between Matthews and Trump.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman.

TRUMP: Yeah, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

TRUMP: I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.

Trumps’ campaign later walked this back, issuing a statement shortly after the clip went viral saying doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished and not the women who seek them.

“The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb,” according to the statement. “My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

As for Coffman, Democrats can’t point to any similar statements. They can point to his past support of Personhood measures, which did not spell out punishment for women—though some supporters of those measures have embraced the idea that women ought to be punished.

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Coffman has been on record supporting the idea that abortion ought to be illegal, which some pro-choice activists would argue is punishment in and of itself.

But this ad went beyond portraying Coffman as a person who believes abortion should be illegal.

CLAIM: Coffman tried to narrow the definition of rape to mean only “forcible rape.”

VERDICT: Needs context

“In Coffman’s bill, victims who were drugged – even minors; victims of statutory rape would not be considered rape victims,” according to the ad.

That’s technically true, but a reasonable person could assume the ad’s talking about criminal law.

It’s not.

The bill the DCCC uses for proof is called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act.

The Aurora Republican was one of several co-sponsors in January 2011.

The ad gets the phrase “forcible rape” from the bill’s first draft.

Critics warned the phrasing would prevent statutory rape victims and women who were drugged or threatened from using Medicaid for an abortion.

So, the committee working on the bill removed “forcible” from the final draft.

Coffman wasn’t on the committee working on the bill. He did vote for the measure when it came to the floor.

Coffman’s anti-abortion position does include some exemptions. He released the following statement after voting for a 2013 bill limiting late term abortions.

“I strongly support the exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother that have been included in this legislation," Coffman said in his release.

BOTTOM LINE: Coffman and Trump share common ground when it comes to limiting access to abortion.

That’s fair game for attack ads, and it’s fair game for pro-choice voters who want to use that as a reason to vote for Coffman’s opponent.

But the DCCC left out key information – and let voters assume Coffman tried to decriminalize statutory rape.

It also tried to stretch Coffman’s position on the issue to seem similar to Trump’s controversial comment, when Coffman hasn’t taken that same position.

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