RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In the weeks since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Democratic groups have spent big money on campaign ads that center on abortion.

One of those ads is airing in certain parts of North Carolina, and it accuses U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd of sponsoring legislation in Congress that could criminalize abortion for women and put North Carolina doctors in jail.

Democrats nationally have spent eight times as much money on abortion-related ads as Republicans have, according to published reports — $31.9 million by Democrats but just $4.2 million by the GOP, according to AdImpact.

The SMP — the Senate Majority PAC — says it spent $700,000 to air the ad that attacks Budd, a Republican who represents the state’s 13th Congressional district. 

Budd faces former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, in the race to replace the retiring Richard Burr.

THE CLAIM: The ad says Budd “sponsored legislation that could criminalize abortion for women and put North Carolina doctors in jail.”

THE FACTS: Let’s get this out of the way first. No one disputes that Budd opposes abortion.

Campaign spokeswoman Samantha Cotten said in a statement that “Ted has always been transparent” of his position on the issue.

The ad cites two bills that were introduced February 2021, both of which have to do with establishing when a human life begins from a legal perspective.

Budd was one of 29 cosponsors of H.R. 877, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would establish that life begins at fertilization or cloning, and that at that time “every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”

He joined 165 other cosponsors of H.R. 1011, the Life at Conception Act, which would declare the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution as being “vested in each human being.”

That bill contains a line that seemingly refutes one of the claims in the ad, saying that “nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”

Shawn Fields, an assistant professor of law at Campbell, says that part of the ad is “misleading, because it sounds like… the proposed bill would be designed to prosecute women for terminating their own pregnancy.

“And that’s clearly not what the bill is proposed to do,” he added. “It says the exact opposite.”

Seems pretty open and shut, right?

Not exactly.

Instead, what Fields says those bills could do is “create a pathway” to prosecute a doctor who performs an abortion because of the way it defines when human life begins.

“And, of course, we know it’s a crime to deliberately end any human life,” Fields said. “So if a doctor assists a woman in terminating the pregnancy, that doctor has intentionally under the language of that bill ended the human life, which would be a criminal offense.”

He says that conceivably could be extended to “anyone who aids or abets the woman in terminating her pregnancy.

“While the text of the bill itself specifically says the woman will not be prosecuted for terminating her own pregnancy,” Fields said, “anyone else is fair game. That includes doctors, that includes people who provide logistical or financial support.”