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A Feingold radio ad released Oct. 26, 2016 makes a number of claims about Johnson and Trump on women’s issues, including saying they both "oppose a woman's right to choose and Johnson voted against the Violence Against Women Act, denying protections to victims of domestic violence."
Let’s check both parts of the attack.
Right to choose
On abortion generally, Trump has been controversial. In Green Bay in March 2016, he said women should be punished for having an abortion. (Our In Context item fleshed out those remarks.) Then, hours later, Trump’s campaign posted a statement saying women are victims of abortion.
When it comes more specifically to a woman’s right to choose, Trump went from pro-choice to anti-abortion, as our colleagues noted in rating True a claim by former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina that Trump had "changed his mind" on abortion. As late as 2000, Trump wrote that he was pro-choice. But by 2011, he said he was anti-abortion, a position he has stated as recently as October 2016. Trump has said, including in his Green Bay remarks, that he supports exceptions for the life of the mother, incest and rape.
Johnson is also anti-abortion. During his successful campaign to win Feingold’s seat in 2010, Johnson was asked if he Roe v. Wade was "settled law." He said the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion "was a real tragedy," saying it "usurped the democratic process."
In this race, Johnson was endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which noted his support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 2015 bill that would have generally banned abortion at 20 weeks and later. And Life News has urged support for Johnson, saying he has a "strong pro-life voting record."
Feingold’s campaign also pointed out that in 2011, Johnson co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which declared "that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being beginning at the moment of fertilization, cloning, and other moment at which an individual comes into being."
Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act was adopted in 1994. When it was reauthorized in 2005, it was set to expire in 2011. New reauthorization votes were taken in 2012 and 2013.
In 2012, Johnson was among 31 Republican senators who voted no. The bill passed the Senate, but died in the House. In 2013, the bill passed the Senate again, with Johnson among 22 Senate Republicans to vote no. The measure then passed the House and was signed into law.
Like the 1994 version, the renewed law makes it easier to prosecute crimes against women in federal court, and provides such services as domestic abuse hotlines and shelters for battered women. The new bill was also extended to women of Native American tribal lands who are attacked by non-tribal residents, as well as to immigrants, gays and lesbians.
It’s worth noting why Johnson said he voted no.
Johnson issued a statement after his 2012 vote, saying in part:
I believe it’s critical to ensure that laws are in place to prevent and deter crime – against both women and men. Regrettably, the debate over the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act was completely politicized by the Senate Democratic leadership.
Republicans offered very reasonable alternatives to extend the Violence Against Women Act. Senate Democrats today defeated proposals to provide U.S. marshals the tools they need to track sex offenders across state lines. They voted against legislation to establish an interstate database for DNA evidence, to ensure sex offenders are brought to justice regardless or the jurisdiction in which they commit their crimes. And they rejected legislation to provide additional funds to allow law enforcement to pursue justice for hundreds of thousands of women.
Johnson also issued a statement following his 2013 vote, saying in part:
In passing the Violence Against Women Act, the Democrat-controlled Senate turned the renewal of a non-controversial piece of legislation that had a history of strong bipartisan support into a divisive and highly partisan bill.
As a result, the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address. Most analysts believe it would add more than $2 billion to the deficit.
I voted for an alternative that did not have these serious flaws. That alternative would help deter and prosecute violence against women – without the inclusion of unconstitutional provisions.
Feingold says Trump and Johnson "oppose a woman’s right to choose and Johnson voted against the Violence Against Women Act."
Trump and Johnson are anti-abortion, though Trump in particular has said he supports exceptions to allow abortion in certain cases. Johnson did vote no on reauthorizing the violence law, but it’s not as though he opposed protections for women; in fact, he voted for alternative measures that did not pass.
For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification, our rating is Mostly True.https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/9098398a-5eba-4691-8b05-25a5f5b6640a
YouTube, Russ Feingold radio ad, Oct. 26, 2016
Email, Russ Feingold campaign spokesman Michael Tyler, Nov. 2, 2016
Email, Ron Johnson campaign spokesman Ben Voelkel, Nov. 2, 2016
PolitiFact Florida, "Bizarre campaign ad wrongly ties Trump and David Jolly together on abortion," Oct. 24, 2016
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "In Context: Transcript of Donald Trump on punishing women for abortion," March 30, 2016
PolitiFact National, "Fiorina: Trump's abortion flip-flop," Aug. 11, 2015
Wisconsin Right to Life, Ron Johnson endorsement, Aug. 18, 2016
One Wisconsin Now, news release, June 16, 2010
Life News, "We Must Keep Congress Pro-Life, Here are Pro-Life Senate Candidates Who Need Your Help," Oct. 24, 2016
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, video clip of Ron Johnson interview, Aug. 19, 2010
U.S. Senate, vote on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, April 26, 2012
U.S. Senate, vote on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, Feb. 12, 2013
PolitiFact Florida, "Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, Murphy says," Aug. 19, 2016
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sen. Ron Johnson calls Violence Against Women bill unconstitutional," Feb. 13, 2013
Ron Johnson Senate office, news release, April 26, 2012
Red State, "Ron Johnson is not Dave Westlake," July 23, 2010
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