WASHINGTON -- Sen. Maria Cantwell's (D-Wash.) position on Plan B emergency contraception is being called into question by her Republican opponent, due in part to the fact that she is an unmarried woman without children and has, according to him, "frequently voted to undermine the role of parents in child-rearing."
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R), who is running against Cantwell, sent out a campaign email Thursday with the headline, "Baumgartner Criticizes Cantwell Embrace of Morning After Pill for Young Girls."
"Cantwell is so extreme that she doesn't see anything wrong with 11 year-old girls getting Plan B without a prescription," Baumgartner said. "She is more liberal than Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and more liberal than President Obama. That is pretty extreme -- a lot farther to the Left than most Washingtonians are comfortable with."
Baumgartner was referring to Sebelius' recent decision to overrule the Food and Drug Administration's recommendation that the emergency contraception pill Plan B One-Step be made available to women of all ages over the counter, without a prescription. Currently, Plan B is available over the counter to women 17 and older, while those younger than 17 need a prescription.
Cantwell and 13 other Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to Sebelius expressing their "disappointment" with the Plan B outcome and asking for the scientific basis behind her decision.
Obama said that while the decision was Sebelius', he supported her, adding that as a father, he was concerned about the effect that Plan B could have on girls younger than age 13.
In the email, which appears to be part of a series called "CAN'TWELL WATCH," the Baumgartner campaign seemed to suggest that Cantwell had chosen what he views as the wrong stance on the issue because she has no children of her own.
"Baumgartner noted that Cantwell, who is unmarried, has frequently voted to undermine the role of parents in child-rearing," read the very bottom of the email.
When asked by The Huffington Post whether being unmarried meant Cantwell was unqualified to have an opinion on Plan B, Baumgartner emailed, "No, she's certainly qualified to talk about this issue and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I just agree with the President and HHS Secretary on this one."
"Maria Cantwell believes that the Plan B decision should be based on the best available science," said Cantwell campaign strategist Rose Kapolczynski. "Washington voters support protecting women's health. You don't need to be married to know that Baumgartner's extreme anti-choice position is out of touch."
A recent Survey USA poll put Cantwell 12 points ahead of Baumgartner, which he touted as showing that "Cantwell is in trouble."
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told PubliCola that a 12-point spread wasn't "bad" for Baumgartner since most state residents don't know him yet, but it was far from a reason for him to be optimistic.
"The bottom line is that Baumgartner has a lot of work to do to prove he can run a credible statewide race and give Cantwell a competitive contest," said Duffy. "And, Washington is just a tough state for Republicans in any circumstance, but especially in a presidential year. Whether Cantwell is up 12 points, or 22 points, she retains the advantage here."