Florida Democrat seeks to pin down Republican congressional opponent on abortion

Hillsborough’s Alan Cohn says Laurel Lee should disclose her stance on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed nationwide 15-week ban.
Republican Laurel Lee, left, and Democrat Alan Cohn face off for Florida's 15th Congressional District.
Republican Laurel Lee, left, and Democrat Alan Cohn face off for Florida's 15th Congressional District. [ courtesy Laurel Lee and Alan Cohn ]
Published Sept. 17, 2022

In local example of a national trend, Democrat Alan Cohn is pressing Republican Laurel Lee, his opponent in the east Hillsborough Congressional District 15, for an answer on whether she favors a nationwide law restricting abortion rights — so far unsuccessfully.

Like many Republican candidates in contested races, Lee won’t say directly whether she favors a bill like the one proposed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham for a nationwide ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Instead, Lee says she favors the 15-week ban imposed in Florida and that the states should decide the issue. But she won’t say whether that means she would oppose a federal law.

Based on national polling, many political experts consider the abortion issue a vulnerability for Republicans. Some GOP strategists have advised candidates in contested races to avoid taking a stance on Graham’s proposal and to say instead the matter should be decided by states, according to national news reports.

Since Graham announced his proposal Tuesday, Democrats have turned up the heat.

Florida Democrats have criticized Republican Sen. Marco Rubio because even though he has also said states should decide the issue, he’s co-sponsoring Graham’s bill. They’ve also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for saying he favors new abortion restrictions in Florida but refusing to specify what restrictions.

Lee has declined several times to give a direct answer on the question of a federal law, including in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times last week.

In a July interview with Tampa TV station WFLA-Ch. 8, Lee didn’t directly answer about a federal law but said, “I am pro-life. I do support exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”

Her campaign said in the statement to the Times that she supports Florida’s 15-week ban, even though it doesn’t include rape and incest exceptions, but again didn’t comment specifically on a federal law.

Her campaign denied she was being evasive, saying, “It is not evasive to refuse to engage in an endless game of speculation on proposals not yet released.”

But the Cohn campaign noted that Graham’s proposal has been released and said the question is not hypothetical.

“Laurel Lee needs to stop hiding and tell the voters what she thinks,” Cohn said in a news release. “I will not support a government takeover of women’s reproductive rights, because health care decisions should be made by patients and doctors, not politicians and bureaucrats.”