KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A super PAC supporting conservative Kris Kobach’s campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat from Kansas has sent out a mailer accusing his chief rival in the Republican primary of performing abortions.
The claim against Rep. Roger Marshall, an OB-GYN endorsed by major anti-abortion groups, is based on a tweet by a Kansas woman whose social media posts have often accused the congressman of hypocrisy on abortion rights, the Kansas City Star reported.
Free Forever PAC, a group almost entirely funded by California billionaire Peter Thiel, paid for the mailer sent out just days before the Aug. 4 primary in Kansas. Thiel is a longtime Kobach ally who has steered $850,000 to the PAC.
Marshall’s campaign and Kansans for Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, decried the mailer as a smear. The medical procedure that Shonita Swank of Hoisington claims she underwent to remove an ectopic pregnancy does not constitute an abortion, they said.
An ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, can be life-threatening to the woman if not treated. Many anti-abortion groups, including National Right to Life and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, draw a distinction between the procedure and abortion.
“This is, without question, the most pathetic and low political lie we have ever seen. This patient, by her own public admission, had a tragic ectopic pregnancy, and Dr. Marshall literally saved her life. Dr. Marshall has never participated in an abortion,” said Eric Pahls, Marshall’s campaign manager.
Kobach’s campaign said it had no involvement with the mailers, but it called Swank’s claims in the tweet a “troubling accusation against Roger Marshall that needs to be answered.”
Swank said she doesn’t like the super PAC using her tweet in the mailer, but she doesn’t feel there is anything she can do about it. Swank said her criticism stems from frustration about her treatment and what she views as Marshall’s hypocrisy on abortion.
The mailers attacking Marshall follow ads from Plains PAC that attacked Kobach for his support of abortion rights in 2000 when he was a candidate for the Legislature. Kobach has said he changed his position after becoming a father.
The Plains PAC is run by C.J. Grover, a former staffer of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The group has also launched attack ads targeting Kobach’s campaign for paying a white nationalist last year.
The GOP hasn’t lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but Republicans are worried that could change if Kobach wins the nomination because it could turn off party moderates and independents. The Democratic nominee likely will be state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a retired Kansas City anesthesiologist and former moderate Republican who switched parties at the end of 2018.