How Is Lincoln Losing?

Earlier this afternoon, Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. John Boozman met for their first official debate in the Arkansas state Senate race. The particulars of this race are interesting but frustrating: It's hard to see how, whatever the climate, the soft-spoken, least-electric-person-on-the-planet Boozman -- James Carville called him "Snoozeman" at a Democratic fundraiser in July -- could beat the well-funded, powerful Lincoln.

That's especially true because Republicans from Arkansas can be just as extreme as Tea Party advocates elsewhere; Boozman won't back away from support of the flat tax, which Lincoln tried to hammer home in the debate: “It is replacing your federal income tax with a 23 percent consumption tax on anything you purchase, anything from your bread to your tires to your home to your car.”

But at the end of the debate, the two candidates asked each other questions. One exchange didn't make Lincoln look particularly good. She asked Boozman about a bill she said he supported that would have allowed fathers who raped their daughters to sue if the daughter obtained an abortion. Boozman said he didn't know what she was talking about, but Lincoln didn't have the number of the bill and floundered when asked for it.

Her campaign later tweeted a link to a vote on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, for which Boozman was a co-sponsor. The 2005 bill made it a crime to transport minors across state lines for an abortion without the consent of her parents. It also gave parents the right to sue if the laws were violated. Rep. Jerrold Nadler at the time tried to introduce an amendment that would exempt grandparents, adult siblings, and clergy, and said this:

Under CIANA, a father who rapes and impregnates his own daughter can go and sue the doctor or the grandparent or the clergyman who transported his child across state lines for the purpose of getting an abortion. Maybe that wasn't exactly the intent of this legislation. But according to the descriptive guidelines now laid out by the majority, it would therefore be fair to call this entire bill the Rapists and Sexual Predators Right to Sue Act.

Republicans portrayed his amendment as one that would protect sexual predators. The bill passed by voice vote in the House but died in the Senate. Boozman's campaign has said the bill outlined exemptions for sexual predators. This is what I found in the bill regarding prosecution of those who transport or perform abortion on minors who travel out of state to get them:

(3) the minor declares in a signed written statement that she is the victim of sexual abuse, neglect, or physical abuse by a parent, and, before an abortion is performed on the minor, the physician notifies the authorities specified to receive reports of child abuse or neglect by the law of the State in which the minor resides of the known or suspected abuse or neglect.

It also said a minor or a parent couldn't be sued if they acted under certain exemptions, but I didn't see a provision stripping the right of a father who was also a sexual predator to sue. Boozman voted against a motion to recommit with instructions to address that.

Regardless, Boozman is staunchly anti-abortion, and that's what Lincoln was, poorly, trying to tease out. As Suzi Parker notes at Politics Daily, the same issue helped trip up Boozman's brother, Fay, in the first race Lincoln won. It also should be clear what the stakes are here for progressives. As frustrating as Lincoln is, there's unlikely to be a true progressive representing Arkansas. Keeping the likes of Boozman out of the Senate is a as good a goal to have as any.

-- Monica Potts

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