Mark Ronchetti has claimed to support abortion rights up to 15 weeks' gestation, but megachurch leader Steve Smothermon says he's been assured otherwise.
A conservative pastor in Albuquerque told his congregation that Mark Ronchetti, the Republican nominee for governor of New Mexico, had assured him that while he may have said publicly that he thinks abortion should be legal up to 15 weeks' gestation, in fact he was saying that just to get elected. Ronchetti's actual goal, Steve Smothermon said, is "to end abortion in New Mexico."
On June 24, the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that struck down the affirmation of a constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Ronchetti posted on Facebook a statement that included the sentence, "I believe permitting abortion up to 15 weeks and in cases involving rape, incest, and when a mother's life is at risk is a very reasonable position that most in New Mexico will support regardless of party affiliation."
A review of Ronchetti's political activity shows, however, his apparent willingness to change what he says he thinks about abortion depending on when he says it and who he's talking to.
In a campaign ad released on July 14, Ronchetti falsely accuses his election opponent, incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, of supporting "abortion up to birth" and claims, "I'm personally pro-life, but I believe we can all come together on a policy that reflects our shared values." Using what doctors say is a medically inaccurate and deliberately misleading term, and leaving out any mention of abortion in general, Ronchetti continues, "We can end late-term abortion while protecting access to contraception and health care."
But according to Smothermon, the senior pastor at the nondenominational Legacy Church, he spoke to Ronchetti and was assured that he intends to ban all abortions. In video posted by the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Smothermon tells the congregation of his tax-exempt church: "We have two choices in New Mexico. We have the Wicked Witch of the North or you have Mark Ronchetti."
After mocking media and legal figures who might view his political speech from the altar as illegal for a tax-exempt organization, he says he was angry about Ronchetti's endorsement of abortion access before 15 weeks and continues: "I had a long talk with him for hours. And I said, Dude, right out of the gate, you blew it. ... And here's what he said, he said, Listen, I just want to start with getting rid of partial-birth abortion ... And he said, But I can't just go in and do it all 100% because we won't ever get elected. He said, I just want to start, but his goal would be to end abortion in New Mexico."
During a debate among Republican gubernatorial candidates in May, Ronchetti said:
Look, I'm firmly pro-life, and we will protect life, there's no question, but to look at where we are in the state is staggering. We are the late-term abortion capital of North America ... What is most staggering about this is how out of step this policy is with the morals of the people of the state of New Mexico, and it's another example of a legislature and a governor who forces policies, extreme policies down the throats of the people of this state, and it has to stop here. We have to go, we have to protect life, there's no question about that here.
Ronchetti ran for one of New Mexico's U.S. Senate seats in 2020; his campaign website then contained another lie about what "so many on the left" believe about abortion, stating: "Mark believes life is a gift from God and every person has dignity and worth. Life should be protected – at all stages. With respect to abortion, he is strongly pro-life. Mark is appalled by the insistence of so many on the left that abortion should be allowed up to the very point of birth. He believes unborn babies have souls, can feel emotions, and are every bit a human being; they just happen to be living inside their mother."
Ronchetti has also been inconsistent in his statements on contraceptives. His current campaign website states that "he will always protect access to contraception and healthcare"; however, on a website paid for by his campaign and devoted to attacking one of his primary candidates, New Mexico state Rep. Rebecca Dow, one of the charges leveled against her is that "Dow was one of only three Republicans who voted for the Obamacare mandate to require health coverage for the morning-after abortion pill," repeating the lie that emergency contraceptive medication causes abortion.
Delaney Corcoran, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, told the American Independent Foundation, "Mark Ronchetti is desperately trying to trick New Mexicans into voting for him so he can get elected governor and pass extreme policies that punish New Mexican women and doctors and criminalize patients seeking critical reproductive health care."
Corcoran added, "From lying to voters about his plan to completely ban abortion in New Mexico, to trying to backtrack his previous statements about opposing abortion at 'all stages,' to attempting to hide his opposition to insurance coverage for emergency contraceptives — Mark Ronchetti has made it clear he can't be trusted on a woman's right to make decisions about her own body."
Ronchetti's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
While abortion remains legal in New Mexico, the right to an abortion is not codified in state law, and the winner of the race for governor on Nov. 8 could have a direct impact on abortion access in the state.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.