Vulnerable Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor Refuses to Say if He’d Back Late-Term Abortion Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2014   |   11:35AM   |   Little Rock, AR

Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor is perhaps the most vulnerable member of the Senate and will be targeted by pro-life advocates in his state because he will be facing a pro-life challenger in November.

But Pryor, who likes to maintain a moderate middle-ground position on abortion, has been mum about whether he would support a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. He is, after all, the pro-abortion lawmaker who used a Bible verse in a campaign commercial.

Not only has Pryor refused to talk about the late-term abortion ban, he’s been ridiculously quiet. As National Review explains:

Good luck getting Mark Pryor to talk to you about abortion. And I’m not being sarcastic. Seriously, please try to get him to talk to you about it, and I wish you luck. The Arkansas senator is probably 2014’s most vulnerable incumbent, and his behavior in the Capitol would suggest he’s acutely aware of this distinction. I don’t spend an enormous amount of time on the Hill — I’m in the Capitol maybe once or twice a week when Congress is in session — but when I’m there, I often try to talk with Pryor and other vulnerable red-state Democrats. That’s because, given the national interest in their reelection bids, their comments are more newsworthy than, say, comments from a Democrat in a safe seat might be.

When I try to talk to him, this is what happens: He makes eye contact, smirks a little bit, sort of gives me side-eye, shakes his head, and bustles off. Tom Harkin doesn’t do this. Bob Casey doesn’t do this. Tammy Baldwin doesn’t do this. Sherrod Brown, bless his heart, certainly doesn’t do this. I can’t think of anyone who does this, besides the senior senator from Arkansas. I’m not doing a good job describing how weird it is; please just trust me when I say that it’s really weird.

Anyway, I bring this up because a few days ago I tried to ask Pryor a question about abortion, and he responded predictably. This wasn’t trolling, by the way. Pryor’s stance on the issue has vacillated, and that puts him in a tricky position as a representative of one of the most pro-life states in the country. Plus, the issue is about to get some buzz in his state; on Saturday, the Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice will hold its fourth annual pro-choice rally at the state capitol in Little Rock. And a day later, Arkansas Right to Life will hold its 36th March for Life in the same place, and Representative Tom Cotton, Pryor’s most formidable challenger, will speak at that event. In short, there’s some abortion news in Arkansas, and it makes sense that a person who’s been in the Senate since 2002 would be reasonably comfortable getting asked about such a contentious, headline-grabbing issue.

Apparently not. I saw the Senator on Monday night shortly before the 5:30 p.m. vote to confirm Robert Wilkins to be a circuit judge for Washington, D.C. He was passing through the Ohio Clock room off the Senate chamber, so I caught up with him to ask about Senator Lindsey Graham’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, “incest against a minor,” or the endangerment of the mother’s life. When The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack asked Pryor about the legislation last August, he said, “I’ll have to look at it. I haven’t focused on it.”

Fair answer. It’s been four months since then, so one would think Pryor would have had a chance to give it a look by now.

So on Monday evening, I skittered across the Ohio Clock room to ask the senator if he’d had any more thoughts on the bill. He looked at me, sort of smiled, said nothing, and kept walking.

Arkansas voters will walk, too — all the way to the voting booth to vote for his pro-life opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton.

According to the National Right to Life Committee, Pryor has just a 35% pro-life voting record, voting pro-life on just 13 of 37 votes NRLC scored.

Those votes include Pryor opposing a measure to stop the abortion-HHS mandate in Obamacare that is the subject of dozens of lawsuits from groups like Hobby Lobby that don’t want to be forced to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in their health insurance plans for their employees. The pro-abortion votes also include opposing a bill to stop taxpayer funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business, opposing health care coverage for unborn children, funding the pro-abortion UNFPA, which is involved in China’s one-child policy, and repeatedly opposing the Mexico City Policy to stop taxpayer funding of abortions overseas.