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In stark, black-and-white montages of tear-streaked female faces, District 27 state senate hopeful Kevin Rader blasts his Republican opponent in a campaign ad for her anti-abortion views.
Rader, a Democrat and state House member, accuses Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto of strongly opposing abortion and having ties to extremist conservative groups that would criminally prosecute rape victims for having abortions.
"Lizbeth Benacquisto strongly opposes a woman's right of choice," the ad states. "The extremist groups who support her would make these women into criminals. She supported an extreme law to require pregnant women to pay for and view a sonogram before they could exercise their right of choice. Her allies would make choice illegal in all cases, including rape, incest, even to save a woman's life. Vote no on Benacquisto, keep extremism out of our state Senate."
The ad enraged Benacquisto, a city councilwoman in Wellington, who responded with her own ad and the revelation that she was raped 23 years ago as a University of Florida freshman. She underscored her support for an exception to abortion for rape victims, saying she would "never stand down when any woman has been abused," and demanded Rader pull the ad.
Rader's camp said the only way that will happen is if Benacquisto renounces the support given to her by far-right, conservative right-to-life groups.
With such a high emotion level in this campaign, we thought Rader's claim about Benacquisto's supporters was worth a look.
Benacquisto is pro-life, and she makes no secret of it on her website and in questionnaires.
Same with her support of the ultrasound legislation, though she has noted in various interviews she has concerns about its impact on rape victims. In a candidate questionnaire from the Christian Coalition of Florida, she added, "I consistently support this because I am pro-life."
Benacquisto holds support from a handful of conservative, anti-abortion groups. Among those are the Christian Coalition, the Florida Right to Life PAC and the Christian Family Coalition. Though they haven't donated financially, both Florida Right to Life and the former Christian Coalition executive director have offered endorsements, and she headlined at least one event, a breakfast for the Christian Family Coalition on Oct. 16.
Florida Right to Life believes life begins at conception and ends at natural death, and all points in between are to be defended. It labels abortion "infanticide," which is a crime. And the Christian Coalition of Florida states, "Although legal in the United States, we believe abortion is no less than murder of an innocent human life." Using this logic, abortion equals murder and murder is a crime. Therefore, those who have abortions would be criminals.
The Christian Family Coalition, based in Miami, says it "works to introduce pro-family legislation at the state and local levels of government. It informs and educates citizens on where candidates stand on the issues that affect the traditional family unit." The group’s website includes a link to "abortion," but contains just news articles and press releases in which it is mentioned.
Each of those three organizations also closely follows abortion-related legislation. They post opinions on everything from parental notice to making the violent death of any fetus -- viable or otherwise -- cause for a first-degree murder charge.
But none appear to flat-out say they would support abortion regardless of whether a woman was raped, abused by a family member or faced with death. They skirt the issue. For example, Florida Right to Life says, "We promote, uphold and support reverence and respect for human life without regard to condition, quality, age, race, religion, color or whether born or unborn."
On the National Right to Life page, the only reference to exceptions is a 2005 survey indicating only 0.5 percent of women have abortions due to rape, while 4 percent undergo it for the mother's health.
Rader's campaign manager, Michael McCall, said, "The problem with something like that is if you take an organization like Florida Right to Life, their very core is making abortion illegal. They won't list every case in which they support banning abortions, because they support banning abortions in all cases."
It's clear that groups supporting Benacquisto have firm stands against abortion, but they're not spelled out precisely. What is clear, though, is that the groups don't offer up any exceptions. So we don't expect Rader's campaign to find any. We rate this claim Mostly True.
Kevin Rader campaign ad, Oct. 27, 2010
Florida Catholic Conference 2010 Candidate Questionnaire Project, Lizbeth Benacquisto:
"Saying She Was Raped, State Senate Candidate Benacquisto Says Rival Rader’s Attacks Crossed the Line," Palm Beach Post, Oct. 28, 2010
"Abortion the Latest Flash Point Between Rader, Benacquisto in State Senate District 27," Palm Beach Post, Oct. 27, 2010
"Christian Family Coalition Hosts Kick-Off Breakfast in Palm Beach with Lizbeth Benacquisto," Christian Coalition press release, Oct. 21, 2010.
Palm Beach Post, "Florida Abortion Bill with Sonogram Requirement nears Decision by Governor," June 6, 2010.
Florida Right to Life website
Lizbeth Benacquisto campaign ad, Oct. 28, 2010
"Florida Right to Life PAC Endorses Lizbeth Benacquisto," campaign press release, Aug. 23, 2010
"Former Christian Coalition Director Touts Lizbeth’s Conservative Leadership," campaign press release, Aug. 2, 2010
Interview with Michael McCall, Rader's campaign manager
Christian Coalition of Florida website on protecting life
Christian Coalition of Florida 2010 Voters Guide survey
Florida Division of Elections, campaign finance reports for Lizbeth Benacquisto, obtained Oct. 28, 2010
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