02/03/2014 02:45 pm ET | Updated Feb 03, 2014

Contraception, Abortion Issues Arise In Close North Carolina Senate Race

All five Republican candidates vying to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) believe that states have the authority to ban contraceptives and would support a fetal "personhood" amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the News and Observer reported Monday.

At a Republican candidate forum last month and in interviews with the News and Observer, the candidates clarified where they stand on issues such as abortion, banning contraceptives and the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

The Republican candidates all favor a “personhood” constitutional amendment that would grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg. According to experts, such an amendment could also ban some forms of birth control.

Three of the leading contenders -- North Carolina's House speaker, Thom Tillis, obstetrician Greg Brannon and Rev. Mark Harris -- said they believe abortion should be illegal except to save the life of the mother (Brannon and Harris) or in those cases, plus in cases of rape and incest (Tillis).

Hagan, who supports abortion rights, could capitalize on the stances of her opponents as the Republican field heats up before the May 6 primary.

“Kay has always trusted women to make their own healthcare decisions in consultation with their doctors, but the Republican primary candidates in this race have taken their anti-woman positions to a new level by supporting a ‘personhood’ amendment to the Constitution and declaring that states have the authority to ban contraception,” Hagan Communications Director Sadie Weiner said in a statement. “These candidates must want to distinguish their primary field as the most fringe in the nation if they believe that states have the authority to ban a safe, approved medication prescribed to countless North Carolina women. This type of anti-woman platform is dangerous for North Carolina.”

EMILY’s List, a political action committee that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, is one of Hagan's top contributors. The senator recently announced a strong fundraising haul in the last three months of 2013, bringing in over $2 million to her campaign.

Tillis supported a bill, famously attached to another concerning motorcycle safety, that placed restrictions on abortion providers last year. The restrictions on abortion were unpopular with the state's residents; a poll conducted last July by the liberal leaning Public Policy Polling found that just 34 percent of voters supported the bill.

“I am pro-life, I believe all life is sacred, and I am proud that we have made real progress on this issue since I am speaker,” Tillis told the News and Observer. “The country is moving in our direction on this issue.”

The crowded Republican primary is forcing each candidate to prove their right-wing credentials. At a separate forum last month, Brannon and Army veteran Heather Grant suggested President Barack Obama could be impeached.


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