Democrat Tim Ryan calls for some abortion limits as Ohio Senate race tightens

tim ryan Democrat Senate nominee from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan speaks at a townhall-style debate hosted by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of Fox News at The Fives on Nov. 1, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. Ryan will face Republican nominee J.D. Vance in the general election on Nov. 8. | Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images

Congressman Tim Ryan, a Catholic Democrat running for Senate in Ohio, said Tuesday that he supported some restrictions on late-term abortions despite having voted consistently in favor of abortion, including up until birth. 

The issue was raised during a debate between Ryan and his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance, who is also a Catholic. The two are locked in a tight race that could determine control of the Senate.

When asked what limitations he supported at a town hall event Nov. 1 hosted by Fox News, Ryan said: “I believe that if it’s later in the term that there should not be an abortion unless there is a medical emergency. At that point, people have a nursery, they have binkies, they have blankets, they have names picked out.”

Ryan called late-term abortions “an absolute tragedy,” saying he did not think “we should have abortions later in the term unless there’s a medical emergency.” 

Late-term abortions are banned in Ohio after 22 weeks’ gestation — five months into a pregnancy and an age at which an unborn child can survive outside the womb. 

However, Ryan said he did “not agree with [Ohio’s] state law at all.” 

When pressed to name a specific time limit on abortion, Ryan said he wanted to return to Roe v. Wade, saying it placed restrictions on late-term abortions unless there was a “medical emergency.”

“In the third term of Roe v. Wade, you could only do it if there was some kind of medical emergency,” Ryan said. 

However, the claim that Roe v. Wade allows for restrictions on abortions is misleading, according to Alexandra DeSanctis, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. 

“Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, invented an essentially unlimited constitutional right to abortion, invalidating all state laws in place protecting unborn children,” DeSanctis said in a statement to CNA.

A back-and-forth record on life

Ryan’s statements marked a rare instance in this midterm campaign season where a prominent Democrat candidate has spoken in favor of some type of abortion restrictions.

Ryan’s call for late-term limits, however, stands at odds with his solid pro-abortion voting record.

Ryan described himself as a pro-life Catholic when he first ran for Congress in 2002 but flipped to be pro-abortion later on, at one point condemning crisis pregnancy centers in Ohio as “fake women’s health centers.”

In a 2015 op-ed, Ryan explained the switch, saying he had “gained a deeper understanding of the complexities and emotions that accompany the difficult decisions that women and families make when confronted” with pregnancy. 

Ryan has earned a consistent 100% rating from NARAL since 2010 and voted for the second time this year for the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), considered the most radical piece of abortion legislation yet.

The WHPA would forbid any kind of abortion restrictions before and after fetal viability as determined by a doctor and obliterate pro-life laws across the country, including limits on late-term abortions.

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Meanwhile, Republican candidate and Catholic convert J.D. Vance describes himself as “100% pro-life.”

Vance has expressed his support for a national 15-week ban on abortion and favors pro-child and pro-family policies, including child tax credits. 

Catholic vs. Catholic

The race between the two Catholics with radically divergent views is one of the nation’s most closely-watched Senate elections. 

EWTN’s newest poll, based on responses collected from Oct. 14–18, shows that Vance leads among Catholics in Ohio. Over 55% of likely Catholic voters in the state support Vance, while 41% back Ryan. Vance was most popular among Catholics who say they attend Mass daily while Ryan captured the majority of Catholics who attend Mass once a year or less. 

Vance currently leads Ryan by more than 2 percentage points according to other recent polls, with 47.1% support compared with Ryan’s 44.8%. 

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