The term "100 percent pro-life" means different things to different people — and congressional candidates Mike Pompeo and Wink Hartman are no exception.
As they battle for the lead in the contentious 4th District Republican primary, both candidates have claimed the "100 percent" mantle to try to attract votes from abortion opponents — a key Republican voting bloc.
To Pompeo, that means opposing abortion except when necessary to save the life of the woman.
It's a much harder line than current state law, which allows abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy and later-term abortions to preserve the woman's life or health.
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Hartman, however, takes a harder line than Pompeo — no abortions, no exceptions.
He also opposes several popular forms of birth control, which he considers to be another form of abortion.
"When you're in the pro-life boat, you can't dip your feet in the water," he said.
Pompeo won the coveted endorsement from Kansans for Life, the state's most powerful anti-abortion lobbying and activist group.
Hartman countered with an endorsement from the Rev. Michael O'Donnell, pastor of Wichita's Grace Baptist Church and a longtime anti-abortion activist.
Abortion or not?
State Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, is the only candidate in the race who would allow abortions outside the realm of a threat to the woman's life.
"I support the current law, and I believe women have the capability of... making their own decisions about their health," she said.
She said making abortion unnecessary is a better strategy than making it illegal.
"I have voted for prevention programs, education programs, adoption programs, pregnancy maintenance programs, all of the above," she said.
Hartman is alone among the candidates in his opposition to abortion under all circumstances.
He cites 1996 comments by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who said late-term abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother.
He said his pro-life commitment goes beyond abortion to include opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, birth-control pills, morning-after pills and intra-uterine devices, which he says are equivalent to abortion.
Of barrier methods such as condoms, he said, "I don't like it, but I can live with it."
The only birth control he supports is natural family planning, which involves avoiding intercourse during certain times of a woman's ovulation cycle.
Pompeo also opposes embryonic stem-cell research and birth control methods that interfere with fertilized embryos. But he does not oppose birth control methods that prevent fertilization, a campaign spokesman said.
Candidates Paij Rutschman and Jim Anderson's positions align more closely with Pompeo's, that abortion should be allowed only when a doctor believes the woman's life is in danger.
Anderson, who describes himself as "a proud Catholic," said cases where a woman's life is endangered are few.
"Rarely, you could find maybe a couple a year," he said.
In a statement on her website, Rutschman said she believes life begins at conception and that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
She said those are "the result of our society's moral failure and should be addressed at that level and not through the use of abortion."
Comment 29 years old
Hartman and Pompeo have been dueling for the anti-abortion vote for months.
But the issue moved front and center last week when the Pompeo campaign launched a TV ad accusing Hartman of supporting a group that favors abortion rights.
According to the ad, "Hartman said we should send tax dollars to fund abortion advocate Planned Parenthood, saying it will save big dollars in years to come."
Neither the commercial nor the accompanying statement on Pompeo's website mention that the interview with The Eagle took place 29 years ago.
A Web link to the full story shown on Pompeo's site is inactive.
Hartman, now 64 with silver hair, was then 35 with a full beard and dark hair.
His 1981 comments were part of a lengthy group interview with candidates for Wichita City Commission:
Q: You've all said we need to put priority on the basic services. Could you give me a couple of examples with what you see as the social programs, what ones should be cut, and maybe what ones should be maintained?
Hartman: I would suggest to you that they sound better to me, let's call them self-help programs because those are the programs that I would prioritize in that grouping. Meals on Wheels. Planned Parenthood. These types of programs, with what few monies we must put in these programs up front, are going to save the big dollars later on in the years to come.
So let's take these items that we can take and stop something that is going to cause higher crime, higher unemployment, greater welfare, take those programs that do nothing more than fester those. Let's put our small dollars up front and try and stop the problem before it becomes great, rather than try and throw a lot of government money at it at the end.
Q: The two you mentioned as examples are two that would?
Hartman: Planned Parenthood and Meals on Wheels are two of several examples of programs that — those are short dollars or inexpensive dollars to help those people, compared to letting, if there is a problem there, continue for a number of years where it's going to take a great deal of money to get ourselves out of that proverbial hole government sometimes finds itself in.
Hartman said he doesn't remember the interview or the comments in question.
He did say that at the time, he didn't know Planned Parenthood advocated for abortion access and thought the group provided adoption services.
"No way was I supporting abortions," he said.
Asked whether he knows what Planned Parenthood was involved in 29 years ago, Pompeo said: "I suppose I can't tell you exactly. But I know what their mission statement is."
He said his understanding is that the organization advocates making sure women have access to birth control, which includes, in its view, access to abortion.
Planned Parenthood says its mission is "to ensure every individual has the knowledge, opportunity and freedom to make informed private decisions about reproductive and sexual health."
Hartman said his opposition to abortion is a matter of family history.
His father was a foundling adopted by his grandfather.
Hartman said his father, who hired private investigators to find his twin and an older brother, told him that the mother had sought an abortion but couldn't afford it. She gave birth to the twins and abandoned them on the doorstep of the Wichita Children's Home.
Hartman highlighted the story in a recent campaign mailer.
"Every day I thank the Lord that she gave birth to that baby, my father," the mailer said. "He taught me the values I hold today and the reason why I am committed to the pro-life cause."
Pompeo also is using a personal story in his advertising.
Pompeo said his sister adopted two children, and he showed them in his TV ad attacking Hartman's statements in The Eagle in 1981.
He is their uncle because "two Kansas women in challenging circumstances chose life," the ad says.
Pompeo said that one of the children, James, was adopted through a local clinic "that tries to help mothers make good choices and coordinates adoptions."
Pompeo said the children spent about 30 days with his family shortly after they were born and that his family has been very involved in their lives.
But he said that because of privacy laws and unknowns, he's not certain whether the mothers of James or Emily were considering abortion.
He said he assumes that was a possibility because the clinic often handles such cases.