GOP House candidate's abortion stance contradicts his promises to an anti-abortion group

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Syracuse Right-to-Life claims New York congressional nominee Brandon Williams promised to 'consistently' back its agenda on its candidate questionnaire.

Brandon Williams, the Republican nominee for New York's 22nd Congressional District, said on Oct. 19 that he does not support a federal abortion ban and that he backs abortion in some instances. But an anti-abortion group in nearby Syracuse has said he told it he would "consistently" back its agenda, which appears to include a national ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Williams, a software executive, is running for the open House seat created through redistricting against Democratic nominee Francis Conole, a policy adviser at the Defense Department. On his campaign website, Conole says: "I’ll always support a woman’s right to choose. This starts by codifying Roe v. Wade with federal legislation to ensure a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is the law of the land."

During a live Facebook Q&A, Syracuse.com reporter Kevin Tampone asked Williams about his abortion views. After Williams confirms that he is "pro-life" but unwilling to vote for a national ban, Tampone says: "There's a Syracuse-based group, Syracuse Right to Life, which says that you support their agenda, which includes several bills that would add new national restrictions on abortion. So I'm wondering if you could address that."

Williams first downplays the group's support, saying: "So I think what they said is that they support my candidacy. I don't think they said that I support their agenda." Tampone says, "Well, if they're supporting your candidacy, presumably they would feel that you support their agenda." Williams then responds: "That's a presumption, that I support some part of their agenda or to some degree. I think they're confident in saying that I would be a good, pro-life candidate. Those are not the same things. They're not logically the same arguments."

Tampone asks him to clarify what parts of the group's agenda he does support, and Williams says: "Well, I tell you, when you run for Congress, of course I didn't know this, because I've never been in politics before, but when you run for Congress, you get a lot of surveys. Not just one or two. You get dozens and dozens on every topic under the sun, from — and so I don't remember the specifics of that."

After repeating that, despite opposition ads painting him as "extreme on abortion," he favors exceptions to bans on abortion "in case of incest, rape, and life of the mother," Williams say that abortion is "a topic that's certainly important for some, but overall that's not the pain that people in Central New York are worried about. Nothing's gonna change in New York state no matter who's elected to Congress. And people need to know that. So all the fearmongering around this, I think, is fairly cynical, in terms of stoking fears and misrepresenting my views and others'."

But on Aug. 13, Syracuse Right to Life wrote on Facebook, "Brandon Williams has returned the Right to Life Candidate Questionnaire, is pro-life and would consistently vote the RTL position on our key legislation if elected."

The group is an affiliate of the National Right to Life, which says it works "to restore legal protection to the most defenseless members of our society who are threatened by abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia" and has lobbied for federal restrictions.

Its questionnaire expressly asks whether candidates will back the Heartbeat Protection Act, a proposed federal six-week abortion ban built on the dishonest claim that a fetus has a detectable heartbeat at that point in a pregnancy.

Christina Fadden, president of Syracuse Right to Life, told Syracuse radio station WSYR on Aug. 19 that her group considers the questionnaire "an official commitment on the part of a candidate. So Brandon, according to this questionnaire, we would say he is pro-life and he would consistently vote the Right to Life position on our key legislation if he's elected."

Conole said in a press release:

Brandon Williams needs to come clean and tell the voters of Central New York all the promises he has made to far-right interest groups. Washington Republicans told us they want to vote on a national ab ortion ban, and voters of Central New York deserve to know if he is making promises on eliminating the right to choose behind closed doors. Brandon Williams must release the National Right to Life questionnaire he completed before the August primary so voters can see if he has committed to voting for these extreme bans.

A Williams campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

As first reported by the website City & State New York, Williams' campaign site before the primary said: "I am pro-life by faith; abortion ends all of the future possibilities of the life it extinguishes. No one is more vulnerable than the unborn and we must protect them."

After winning the nomination, it was changed to say: "Abortion ends all future possibilities for the life it takes. Brandon will always promote life while also standing with young mothers to ensure that choice is protected in instances of rape, incest, or life of the mother."

Williams also claimed in a June interview on WUTQ radio that he was the race's "pro-life candidate, without any qualification," and reportedly contrasted himself with a GOP primary opponent at an early August forum by highlighting his own anti-abortion position.

Contrary to his claim, if the Republicans win back a majority in Congress, a federal ban that would supersede New York's state abortion rights protections, is likely to come up. The majority of current House Republicans are co-sponsors of the federal six-week abortion ban, and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and nine GOP senators are pushing a 15-week ban in the Senate.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.