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  1. Florida Politics

Kathleen Peters rejects antiabortion group's criticism

Published Jan. 4, 2014

The antiabortion group National Right to Life this week described Pinellas congressional hopeful David Jolly as "the only candidate in the GOP primary who has taken a pro-life stand."

But an aide to Republican candidate Kathleen Peters says the group has it wrong. Campaign manager Mark Zubaly said the group mischaracterized Peters' position when it recently wrote:

State Rep. Kathleen Peters has a 100% pro-abortion voting record even voting against a ban on sex-selection abortions.

Neither candidate has made abortion a focal point of his campaign, but the issue remains important to many voters and inevitably comes up. Someone asked about it Friday when all three candidates appeared at the Belleair Women's Republican Club.

Jolly said "as a matter of my Christian faith I believe life begins at conception" and added "I was pleased this past week to receive the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee."

Although Peters has previously been vague in some of her answers on the issue, she said on Friday that "I am absolutely pro-life." And Peters, a first-term state representative, said she had a track record "where I have voted on good policy that protects the unborn children." She added that she would never support taxpayer-funded abortions or mandates forcing religious hospitals "to do procedures that don't fit within their principle core."

Zubaly said Peters did vote against a bill in the House that purported to ban abortions based on sex and race selection. She would absolutely oppose that practice, he said. But she voted against the bill because it would have added unnecessary regulations to doctors, without actually being effective, he said. He also said he believed Peters had never received a questionnaire from the group.

National Right to Life officials did not return phone calls or emails made late Friday afternoon and early evening in an effort to learn what information it used for its conclusions. In an article posted Dec. 31, the group also claimed the third Republican candidate, Mark Bircher, had an unknown position on abortion and that he "has refused to answer questions about his position when asked by local Floridians."

But Bircher has explained his position. For example, in an article published Dec. 23 in the Tampa Bay Times, Bircher said "Personally, I'm pro-life." But he added that he believes the issue should be left up to individual states to regulate, not handled by a federal mandate.

The Republican primary election is Jan. 14 and the winner will go on to face Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 general election.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

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