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Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks to supporters at a campaign party, Wednesday, Aug 2, 2022, in Chandler, Ariz. (AP) Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks to supporters at a campaign party, Wednesday, Aug 2, 2022, in Chandler, Ariz. (AP)

Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks to supporters at a campaign party, Wednesday, Aug 2, 2022, in Chandler, Ariz. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 26, 2022

Blake Masters still supports a national abortion ban, but during the third trimester

If Your Time is short

  • During the primary campaign, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters backed a so-called federal personhood law, which is usually viewed as a national ban on abortion because it argues that abortion violates a fetus’s constitutional rights.

  • Masters was vague about at what stage of pregnancy the ban should take effect.

  • After winning the GOP nomination, Masters continued to back a national ban, but he said it should only be for third-trimester abortions.

Battling in a toss-up race that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., attacked his Republican opponent as being extreme on abortion.

Kelly claimed that political newcomer Blake Masters, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, "wants to pass a national ban on abortion."

Kelly’s ad, which made other claims, appeared on Facebook and Instagram. Kelly won a 2020 special election for the Senate seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

The abortion claim is also made in a TV ad by Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate. Masters responded with an ad that attacks Kelly’s position on abortion, saying Kelly "is lying about my views on abortion."

We found that Masters has softened his position on a so-called federal "personhood" law — one that argues that a fetus should have the constitutional rights of a person, and that abortion violates the fetus’ constitutional right to equal protection.

Such a law is often viewed as a complete or nearly complete ban on abortion.

Masters’ latest comments and revised campaign website still call for a federal abortion law, but he now says the law should prohibit abortion during a pregnancy’s third trimester.

"Personhood generally is about abortion bans. It’s been about abortion bans for the pro-life movement since the 1960s," said Mary Ziegler, a professor, abortion historian and author of an upcoming book on personhood. "If you say you support personhood, you’re saying you support a nationwide ban. That’s the accepted meaning within the movement and within the culture."

Masters’ position more vague during primary campaign

Masters repeatedly stated support for a federal personhood law before his primary victory Aug. 3. He was often vague about when during a pregnancy it would apply.

In a September 2021 interview, Masters said Congress "should have a debate and pick a certain point and say, ‘No, we’re going to recognize, right here, federal personhood and past that, absolutely no abortions.’" 

In an interview in December 2021, Masters was asked whether he would support a national law banning abortion. He said: "Yeah, I mean life is always worth protecting. … Certainly I’m running for U.S. Senate, at the federal level, I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and I do think we need a personhood amendment that recognizes (unintelligible) it’s a baby even before it’s born." 

At a February 2022 campaign event, Masters called for a federal personhood amendment and said Congress would determine when during pregnancy it would apply. "The federal government needs to step in and say, ‘We recognize life here and no state can permit abortions.’ That’s what I think offense on pro-life looks like," he said, in comments that were also reported by The Arizona Republic.

In a February 2022 interview, Masters indicated support for a personhood law that would ban abortion relatively early in pregnancy, during the second or third month, The Arizona Republic reported. 

Masters said at a May campaign event that the 14th Amendment "says you have the right to life, liberty and property," the Huffington Post reported. "You can’t deprive someone with that without due process. Hard to imagine a bigger deprivation of due process than killing a small child before they have a chance to take their first breath. So, I think you do need a federal personhood law." Masters’ campaign issued the same quote to the Phoenix New Times for a June story.

On his campaign website, Masters previously said he would "support a federal personhood law, ideally a constitutional amendment, that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed." NBC News reported that the language was scrubbed from the site Aug. 25. The site’s new text includes saying Masters supports "a law or a constitutional amendment that bans late term — third trimester — abortion and partial-birth abortion at the federal level."

Featured Fact-check

Masters softens stance after winning nomination

Masters softened his position after winning the Republican nomination in August. 

In an interview with The Arizona Republic for a news story published five days after his primary win, he said he backed a personhood law that would ban abortion nationally during the third trimester of pregnancy. The third trimester begins with the 27 week of pregnancy.

Here’s how the article framed it:

Masters said a federal ‘personhood law’ would help ban all third-trimester abortions. He said he views Arizona’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks — with exceptions for the life of the mother — is appropriate for his state.

"The federal government should prohibit late-term abortion, third-trimester abortion and partial-birth abortion," he said. "Below that, states are going to make different decisions that are going to reflect the will of the people in those states, and I think that's reasonable. I think that’s what most people certainly in this state and nationwide are looking for.

"I would look to Arizona’s (15-week) law and say I’m OK with it. I think it’s a reasonable solution, which reflects where the electorate is."

Other Arizona news media also reported that Masters said in August that he supports a federal personhood law that would ban abortion nationally beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy, with an exception to save the life of the pregnant woman. 

State versions of personhood vary

Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona have personhood laws, or anti-abortion laws that include a personhood provision.

But the personhood measures themselves don’t amount to an outright ban on abortion, and their impact on restricting abortion varies.

For example, Alabama voters adopted a state personhood constitutional amendment in 2018 declaring that the policy of the state is "the protection of the rights of the unborn child." But it is Alabama’s 2019 criminal abortion law, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, that bans abortion except to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious health risk to her. 

Georgia’s law bans most abortions once a "detectable human heartbeat" exists, at about six weeks of pregnancy, and includes a personhood provision declaring that "natural persons include an unborn child." The law says a woman can seek child support during pregnancy and allows her to claim an unborn child as a dependent on state income taxes.

Arizona in April 2021 adopted a law that acknowledges "on behalf of an unborn child at every stage of development," starting at conception, "all rights" available to other people in the state.  

In July 2022, a federal judge ruled that the law is unconstitutionally vague, and temporarily blocked it while a lawsuit challenging the law proceeds. 

A federal personhood bill introduced in the U.S. House in February 2021 is stalled under Democratic leadership. 

Our ruling

Kelly said Masters "wants to pass a national ban on abortion."

Masters repeatedly backed a federal personhood law, which is often viewed as a near or total ban on abortion, during his GOP primary. He was often vague about when during a pregnancy a ban would take effect, saying Congress should set the cutoff.

Masters softened his position after winning the Republican nomination, though he still supports a federal ban. Now, he is saying he would ban abortion nationally only during the third trimester.

Kelly’s statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Meta, Mark Kelly Facebook and Instagram ad, Aug. 5 to Aug. 9, 2022

Email, Mark Kelly campaign spokesperson Sarah Guggenheimer, Aug. 17, 2022

Email, Blake Masters campaign spokesperson Katie Miller, Aug. 17, 2022, "Protect babies, don’t let them be killed," accessed Aug. 19, 2022

Kaiser Family Foundation, "Status of Abortion Access in the United States as of August 17, 2022," accessed Aug. 23, 2022

YouTube, Allie Beth Stuckey "Will the Real Right Please Stand Up? | Guest: Blake Masters | Ep 494" post (23:45), Sept. 23, 2021

Huffington Post, "GOP Senate Candidate Blake Masters Embraces National Abortion Ban," May 9, 2022

Arizona Republic, "Blake Masters isn't just moderating on issues. He's done a full 180," Aug. 10, 2022 

Arizona Republic, "'It's time for something new': Blake Masters brings fire, more nuance to Arizona's Senate race," (via Nexis) Aug. 8, 2022

YouTube, 12 News "VERIFY: Where does Blake Masters stand on abortion" post, Aug. 15, 2022

YouTube, Senate Majority PAC "AZ - Brianna" post, Aug. 3, 2022

YouTube, EWTN "New Poll in Arizona Shows Majority Reject Abortion Extremism" post (4:00), March 12, 2022

YouTube, Fox News "‘America First’ here to stay: Blake Masters" post (1:50), May 6, 2022

New Times, "Arizona Women Eye Mexico for Abortions, Amid Conflicting Advice," June 28, 2022

The American Independent, "Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters backpedals push for total abortion bans," Aug. 16, 2022

New York Times, "Is a Fetus a Person? An Anti-Abortion Strategy Says Yes," published Aug. 21, 2022, updated Aug. 22, 2022

Associated Press, "EXPLAINER: What's the role of personhood in abortion debate?", July 30, 2022 

Arizona Legislature, SB 1457, accessed Aug. 22, 2022

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, "Governor Ducey Signs Legislation To Protect Preborn Children," April 27, 2021

Capitol Media Services, "Arizona governor signs law criminalizing abortions involving fetal genetic issues," posted April 27, 2021, updated June 2, 2022

Interview, Mary Ziegler, a University of California, Davis law professor and a historian on abortion, Aug. 24, 2022

Axios, "District court temporarily blocks Arizona law granting ‘personhood’ rights to fetuses," July 11, 2022, "H.R.1011 - Life at Conception Act," accessed Aug. 22, 2022

Time, "Fetal Personhood Laws Are a New Frontier in the Battle Over Reproductive Rights," June 28, 2022, federal judge ruling, July 11, 2022

SoundCloud, Queen Creek-San Tan Valley Republican Women Club Blake Masters campaign event, Feb. 8, 2022 (29:40), accessed Aug. 22, 2022

Arizona Republic, "What Arizona's US Senate candidates are saying about abortion rights," July 9, 2022 (via Nexis)

Washington Post, "Some Republicans fear party is too extreme on abortion and gay rights," July 30, 2022

Twitter, advanced search of @bgmasters for personhood and for  abortion, Aug. 22, 2022

Alabama Policy Institute, "Frequently Asked Questions: Alabama’s Abortion Ban," June 24, 2022

LegiScan, "Alabama House Bill 314," accessed Aug. 23, 2022

PolitiFact, "Alabama law does not criminally punish women who get abortions," May 19, 2022

Missouri House, "House Bill No. 126," accessed Aug. 23, 2022

St. Louis University School of Law, "Missouri abortion law after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs: Sidney Watson and SLU Law student Mary Quandt publish primer analyzing Missouri’s criminal laws," July 1, 2022

Georgia Legislature, "House Bill 481," accessed Aug. 23, 2022

PolitiFact, "Abrams distorts new Georgia abortion law; Kemp has not moved to investigate women for miscarriages," Aug. 12, 2022

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "What does ‘personhood’ look like? Many Georgia agencies don’t know yet," July 22, 2022

Associated Press, "Kan. governor signs sweeping anti-abortion bill," April 20, 2013

Kansas Legislature, "House Bill No. 2253," accessed Aug. 23, 2022

Associated Press, "Federal judge blocks Arizona’s ‘personhood’ abortion law," July 11, 2022

CNBC, "Several U.S. states immediately ban abortion after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade," posted June 24 2022, updated June 25, 2022 

Email, Anthony Michael Kreis, assistant professor of law, Georgia State University College of Law, Aug. 25, 2022

Email, Barbara Atwood, Mary Anne Richey professor of law emerita and co-director of the Family and Juvenile Law Certificate Program, James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona, Aug. 25, 2022

Email, John Felipe Acevedo, assistant professor in residence, University of Alabama School of Law, Aug. 25, 2022 

Alabama Legislature, HB98, accessed Aug. 25, 2022

Twitter, Blake Masters tweet, Aug. 25, 2022

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Blake Masters still supports a national abortion ban, but during the third trimester

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