RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — One of the pivotal issues this election season is abortion.
But is one of the candidates in North Carolina’s tightest Congressional race painting an accurate portrayal of his opponent’s position on it?
In a key swing race that could decide which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic lawyer and state Senator Wiley Nickel is running against Hines, a 27-year-old Republican, to represent North Carolina’s redrawn 13th district that includes Johnston County along with parts of Harnett, Wake, and Wayne counties.
And in a sit-down interview with CBS 17’s Russ Bowen earlier this month, Hines made a pair of strong claims about the positions held by both Nickel and an arm of the state’s Democratic Party.
THE CLAIMS: Hines said “my opponent believes that abortion should be legal all the way up to the point of birth,” and in the same interview added that “aborted babies that survive the abortion sometimes, the Progressive Caucus, which he has sought the endorsement of, believes they should allow the baby to suffocate on the table.”
THE FACTS: Hines’ claim about Nickel’s position is not true, campaign manager Abby May said.
Opponents of Nickel pointed to his vote against a Senate bill three years ago titled the “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.”
It would have directed doctors and nurses to care for an infant born alive after an attempted abortion as they would any other child — or face a new crime and prison time or fines.
At the time, Nickel said on Twitter that the bill “demonizes and criminalized Ob-Gyn doctors and nurses.”
It was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, who said it was not needed and would create unnecessary interference between doctors and patients. The state Senate overrode that veto but a similar attempt in the House failed.
May says Nickel supports codifying Roe v. Wade, which would make a woman’s right to an abortion federal law.
Speaking about Hines, May said the “latest claim demonstrates his utter lack of understanding on the medical reality of abortion care and underscores exactly why politicians should not be getting in between a woman and her doctor with these decisions.”
But what, exactly, is that medical reality?
Dr. Jonas Swartz, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Duke University School of Medicine, said Hines is “misrepresenting the abortion care that’s provided in North Carolina” because the scenario he describes is “non-existent.”
More than 90 percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester, or 12 to 14 weeks, Swartz said.
Before the state’s ban on abortions after the 20-week mark was reinstated, less than 1 percent of abortions in North Carolina were performed beyond that time, he said.
None, he said, are performed after the stage of fetal viability — the fulcrum of Roe v. Wade and a stage usually reached between 23 and 28 weeks.
“I’ve never seen a situation where there was a baby born alive that did not really receive the care needed,” Swartz said. “That wouldn’t be consistent with medical ethical principles and wouldn’t be consistent with sort of the law about how we treat babies that are born. … What the candidate is describing really doesn’t correspond to medical care as we provide it.”
Additionally, CBS 17 checked Hines’ claims about the Progressive Caucus — which is an arm of the state Democratic Party — with its president, Ryan Jenkins. The caucus has endorsed Nickel in the race.
In an emailed statement, Jenkins said he “did ask if anyone in my caucus has ever said they want to allow babies to ‘suffocate on the table’ and this was universally denied.
“Further, if anyone was in favor of that I would tell them to get out of the caucus immediately,” he added.