In an indication that reproductive rights could be a central issue in one of this year's top races, Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) is airing a new television ad in which a woman who says she was raped criticizes his Republican opponent for backing legislation that would restrict abortion access.
Rep. Steve Daines, regarded as the frontrunner in the Montana GOP primary to challenge the newly-appointed Walsh, was a cosponsor of 2013's Life at Conception Act, a so-called "personhood" measure that defines life as beginning when a human egg is fertilized.
"I was raped when I was 14 years old. I know the pain it caused me," Melissa Barcroft of Helena, Mont. says in the ad. "That's why it's so insulting that Congressman Steve Daines sponsored a bill to make abortion illegal for victims of sexual assault. He's even proposed making women criminals for having an abortion."
The bill Daines cosponsored made no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. It would "implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person."
The Billings Gazette reported in 2012 that Daines believes abortion should only be legal to save the life of the mother.
Walsh's campaign told The Washington Post they're spending a six-figure sum to put the ad on broadcast and cable networks, as well as online.
This isn't the first time Walsh has attacked Daines over his support for fetal personhood. After Walsh filed to defend his seat in March, he called Daines a proponent of a “cruel ideology” that “only seeks to preserve privilege," according to the Billings Gazette.
Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban abortion through fetal personhood failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in November of 2012.