BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — With the midterm election looming, and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision throwing the decades-old, highly partisan abortion fight back in the political spotlight, the issue is drawing a stark contrast between candidates in the Central Valley’s ultra-competitive 22nd congressional race.
“Government shouldn’t be involved in a woman’s decision that she makes between herself, her doctor and within her own faith,” Bakersfield Assemblymember and 22nd Congressional candidate Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) said.
Salas is a co-sponsor of Proposition 1 on California’s ballot this November, which seeks to make the right to an abortion part of the state’s constitution.
California’s current law restricts abortion only after the fetus is viable, generally around 24 weeks.
Critics of Proposition 1 argue it could make late-term abortions legal because it does not specify a point in pregnancy when the practice can be restricted.
“I’m not a doctor. I leave that up to the doctor, the woman and within her own faith,” Salas said when asked if there is a point in pregnancy he believes abortion should be restricted.
Meanwhile, incumbent David Valadao (R-Hanford) co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which seeks “equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person,” defining a human person as “each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization…”
The act would apply to all states, including California and does not mention any exceptions.
“So I’ve always been, and I’ll continue to be pro-life. Obviously, I support exceptions: rape, incest, life of the mother,” Valadao told 17 News.
It comes as the abortion fight has sparked new hope for Democrats this midterm election, with the party pointing to outcomes like in Kansas, where primary voters came out in big numbers to reject a ballot measure that would have taken abortion protections out of the state constitution.
“It just depends what the constituency is. The constituency here is, most of the people in CD 22 are Catholic,” Democratic analyst Neel Sannappa said.
But in the 22nd Congressional District, Sannappa argues the issue could benefit the GOP.
“They’re going to use the abortion issue as a wedge issue and try to go after older Latino constituents,” Sannappa said.
Latinos make up 59% of the voting population in the district. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, as of 2020, half of Latinos in America identified as Catholic.
Republican Analyst Cathy Abernathy argues the focus for voters will be on other issues.
“Can you look yourself in the mirror and say that is the issue facing America today? That is most important? I don’t think so,” Abernathy said.
There are a number of advertisements on abortion running in the district right now that point to Valadao’s vote against the Right to Contraception Act. The act sought to make the right to obtain and use contraceptives federal law.
Valadao’s team told us he supports access to safe and affordable contraception, but voted no on the act because it “includes a definition of contraception that is not limited to FDA-approved products.”