(CNN)The GOP nominee for US Senate in Washington said Sunday that she supports a law in her state guaranteeing the right to an abortion up to fetal viability, a rare Republican to take a stance supportive of abortion rights as her party navigates the delicate issue ahead of the November midterms.
“I do,” Tiffany Smiley told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked whether she supports a measure passed by her state in 1991 that declared a woman’s right to receive an abortion before the fetus is deemed viable. “I respect the voters of Washington state. They long decided where they stand on the issue.”
Smiley, who is challenging longtime Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, has previously touted her “pro-life” views while also asserting her opposition to a federal abortion ban — a position she reiterated in her interview with Bash. But her comments Sunday come on the heels of other Republicans attempting to deflect attacks on a key social issue that could cost them votes in November.
After the US Supreme Court decided in June that there was no longer a constitutional right to an abortion, overturning a nearly 50-year precedent, Republican candidates have struggled to figure out how to retain conservative voters while appealing to the country’s sizable majority that supports abortion rights.
Some Republican candidates have tried to avoid the issue, focusing instead on appealing to Americans upset with rising consumer costs and crime. But Smiley and some other GOP candidates have taken a different tack by also trying to diminish a potentially powerful motivating issue for Democrats.
Washington’s law provides exceptions in cases where the procedure would protect the life or health of the patient. And in March, the state legislature amended the law’s language to ensure that people are guaranteed access to reproductive rights, including abortion, regardless of gender identity, allowing the statute to apply to transgender and nonbinary people.
The state also requires state-regulated health plans, including college student plans, to cover abortion services if they also cover pregnancy services.
“I look forward to ensuring that women have access to health care, contraception, that in a time of crisis here in Washington state, that they have every resource that they need to make the best choice,” Smiley told Bash.
In an ad released last month, Smiley spoke of her abortion views, while also taking aim at Murray, a member of Senate Democratic leadership who is seeking a sixth term this fall.
“Patty Murray has spent millions to paint me as an extremist,” Smiley says in the ad. “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.”
“Patty Murray wants to scare you,” she adds at the end of the spot. “I want to serve you.”
While Democrats face a challenging midterm environment as the party in power in DC and low approval ratings for President Joe Biden, Murray is the favorite in her race in a state that last voted for a Republican for Senate in 1994. Murray and Smiley advanced to the general election last month after finishing in the top two in the state’s open primary.
Since her election to the Senate in 1992, Murray has comfortably won reelection, except during the GOP “red wave” of 2010, when she defeated Republican Dino Rossi by less than 5 points. Murray also holds a strong fundraising advantage over Smiley this cycle, with her campaign reporting a war chest of $6.7 million as of July 13, compared with $2.3 million for Smiley.
In a separate interview on “State of the Union” on Sunday, Murray did not directly answer a question from Bash about whether she supports any limitations on abortion, saying instead that she does “not believe that politicians should be making these decisions for women. That is what I support.”
CNN’s Alex Rogers and Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.