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Tommy Tuberville, the 2020 Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, was head football coach at Auburn University in Alabama from 1999 to 2008. (AP) Tommy Tuberville, the 2020 Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, was head football coach at Auburn University in Alabama from 1999 to 2008. (AP)

Tommy Tuberville, the 2020 Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, was head football coach at Auburn University in Alabama from 1999 to 2008. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 14, 2020

Tommy Tuberville wrong twice in attack on Alabama Sen. Doug Jones on abortion

If Your Time is short

  • Jones has not voted for federal funding of “late-term abortions.”

  • Jones supports laws that allow abortions beyond a certain number of weeks in order to protect the health of the mother.

In a campaign ad for Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville, a woman speaks into the camera to attack Democratic Sen. Doug Jones over abortion.

The self-described "proud pro-life mother of two" says she regrets getting an abortion after an unexpected pregnancy at age 18. 

"I asked God for forgiveness, and Doug Jones should do the same," she adds. "Jones has voted to spend our tax dollars on late-term abortions. He’s so extreme, he supports abortion up until birth."

Both parts of the attack are wrong. 

A pivotal race

Tuberville is a former college football coach making his first run for public office. Jones, an attorney, won his Senate seat in December 2017 in a high-profile special election against Republican Roy Moore, after Republican Jeff Sessions vacated the seat to become President Donald Trump’s first attorney general.

The outcome of the Alabama contest could help determine whether Republicans keep a majority in the Senate, where they now control 53 seats. The race is rated as "lean Republican" by the Cook Political Report — meaning the race is competitive but the GOP has an advantage. It is one of 18 pivotal House and Senate contests that PolitiFact is tracking this fall.

"Voted to spend our tax dollars on late-term abortions"

In the ad, Tuberville offers no evidence for his claim that Jones voted to spend tax dollars on late-term abortions. In an email to PolitiFact, his campaign, he cited a January 2019 vote by Jones on a bill tightening restrictions on funding and health insurance coverage for abortion.

The bill would have imposed permanent and stricter limits on federal funding of abortions, and barred coverage for abortion in health insurance plans that meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. 

Jones voted no on a motion to proceed with the bill. In a 48-47 party-line vote, the motion fell far short of the 60 needed to advance. 

Jones opposed the bill because it "went further than the Hyde Amendment," Jones campaign spokesman Owen Kilmer said. It "would have prohibited individual states from allowing citizens to have access to certain insurance plans that would have covered abortion procedures consistent with that state’s law."

The Hyde Amendment, routinely attached by Congress to health funding bills, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life. (Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden now says he wants to get rid of the Hyde Amendment.)

Jones’ campaign said he supports the Hyde Amendment in its current form and has never voted to spend tax dollars on late-term abortions. Jones’ no vote on the motion was not a vote to spend federal money on abortions. 

"Supports abortion up until birth"

The phrase Tuberville’s ad invoked, "late-term abortion" is not a medical, scientific or legal term. Like "abortion up until birth," it is often invoked by abortion opponents to refer to pregnancies terminated after about 20 weeks’ gestation. Such abortions are rare, and subject to restrictions in most states.

In the 2017 Alabama Senate special election, Moore’s wife, Kayla, made a similar attack against Jones, claiming he supported "full-term abortion." We rated it False, noting that she had apparently coined the term herself. 

Featured Fact-check

At the time, Jones said he supported laws that allow abortions after 20 weeks or so of gestation to protect a mother’s life or health.

In the email to PolitiFact, Tuberville’s campaign cited an exchange between Jones and then-MSNBC host Chuck Todd in 2017:

Todd: "So, you wouldn't be in favor of legislation that said, ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?"

Jones: "I'm not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman's right and her freedom to choose. That's just the position that I've had for many years. It's a position I continue to have. But I want people to understand that once that baby is born, I’m going to be there for that child. That’s where I become a right-to-lifer."

But Jones also said this in 2017: "I fully support a woman's freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. Having said that, the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support. I don't see any changes in that."

The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade recognized a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, but it also allowed states to restrict abortions — including banning them altogether — after the point of fetal viability, except when the life or health of the woman is at stake, Darren Hutchinson, a law professor at the University of Florida, told PolitiFact. He said that case did not specify a precise time for viability, but 24 weeks’ gestation has widely been used in medicine and law.

Jones continues to support laws that allow abortions beyond a certain number of weeks in order to protect the health of the mother.

Jones was asked this year by an Alabama newspaper: "What restrictions, if any, do you support on abortion? Does a woman have a right to an abortion in the case of a medical emergency or a pregnancy caused by sexual assault?"

In his response, published Oct. 12, 2020, Jones wrote:

"Your question is essentially the state’s existing law, which allows for an abortion in the case of a medical emergency or a pregnancy caused by sexual assault, which I support. I oppose late-term abortions, which are extremely rare, except for instances of rape, incest, or when the life and health of the mother is in jeopardy."

Our ruling

Tuberville said Jones "has voted to spend our tax dollars on late-term abortions" and "supports abortion up until birth."

Neither part of the claim is accurate. 

Jones voted against advancing a bill that would tighten existing limits on federal funding for abortion and add new restrictions, but he supports the Hyde Amendment — which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life — as it stands. 

He says he opposes "late-term" abortions, except for instances of rape, or incest or to save the mother’s life — the same exceptions as in the Hyde Amendment.

We rate the claim False.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

Our Sources

Twitter, Tommy Tuberville ad, Oct. 8, 2020 

Email, Tommy Tuberville campaign spokesman Paul Shashy, Oct. 9, 2020

Email, Doug Jones campaign spokesman Owen Kilmer, Oct. 9, 2020

Congress.gov, "S.109," accessed Oct. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "Moore's wife coins new anti-abortion term to attack his Democratic opponent," Nov. 21, 2017

U.S. Senate, "On Cloture on the Motion to Proceed (Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 109," Jan. 17, 2019

Montgomery Advertiser, "Read Doug Jones' 9 responses to questions on abortion and gun rights," Oct. 12, 2020

National Review, "Alabama Senator Doug Jones Dodges Questions on Late-Term Abortion," Feb. 28, 2020

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More by Tom Kertscher

Tommy Tuberville wrong twice in attack on Alabama Sen. Doug Jones on abortion

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