Amid a public backlash to the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, some Republican congressional candidates have tried to walk back, downplay or conceal their hardline stances against abortion rights.
But George Santos, the Republican nominee in a Long Island House seat that President Joe Biden won, is one contender sticking to his staunch anti-abortion views — and remarks comparing abortion to, among other things, slavery.
As a candidate challenging Rep. Tom Suozzi (D) in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020, Santos declared his opposition to the 1973 Supreme Court decision recognizing a Constitutional right to an abortion. He said he would vote to ban abortion nationwide if elected to Congress. He even supports criminal charges for doctors who perform abortions, according to local news outlet The Island Now.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Santos issued a statement clarifying that he would always support exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.
But Santos has also said he wants strict vetting of rape claims. In a 2020 interview, he said he supports allowing rape survivors to seek abortion only in an “extreme circumstance with proven police documentation.”
“Nowadays… you sleep with your partner you don’t like, you know you had a bad day, and you wake up pregnant, and like, ‘I was raped,’” he told the conservative talk show, ”Indivisible with John Stubbins.” “That’s a little too loose.”
Finally, just this past August, Santos told an audience of Republicans in Queens that “we are going to be remembered as the most barbaric generation to ever live” because of abortion’s legality. He argued that future generations would frown upon abortion just as we now look down upon slavery.
“All of us in this room can agree that when we look at slavery, it was barbaric,” Santos said in remarks to the Whitestone Republican Club, first reported by the New York Daily News. “Fifty years from now, we’re going to look back at what we’re doing in this country, and we are going to say, ‘We killed babies out of the womb? We aborted our own? That is barbaric.’”
Santos, a financier, is competing with Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman, a small business owner, to succeed Suozzi, who announced plans to retire in January.
Santos and Zimmerman are openly gay and would be Long Island’s first LGBTQ members of Congress. Santos, whose father is Afro-Brazilian, is also biracial.
When offered an opportunity to clarify Santos’ stance on abortion rights or walk back some of his comments, Santos’ campaign manager, Charley Lovett, did not provide a direct answer.
Instead, Lovett insisted that the question is irrelevant because New York has enshrined abortion rights in state law.
“Democrats know that abortion is not under any threat in the state of New York, but they continue to say anything to distract from their disastrous policies that have unleashed a wave of inflation and crime that is crippling New York families,” Lovett said in a statement. “Liberal politicians like Robert Zimmerman may be fools, but voters certainly aren’t.”
Zimmerman, who does not support any legal restrictions on abortion, has made his support for abortion rights a core part of his campaign in the district.
“George Santos represents the greatest threat to women and our democracy of any candidate running for Congress in New York state,” Zimmerman said in a statement to HuffPost. “His own record makes his position clear: describing legal abortion as ‘barbaric,’ comparing abortion to slavery, urging the arrest of doctors, claiming that women will use rape as an excuse to obtain an abortion, and supporting a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. This type of vile extremism and disrespect for women has no place in our country.”
Santos’ anti-abortion views are likely a liability in New York’s 3rd, which includes a swath of Long Island’s North Shore and a small corner of northeast Queens in New York City.
Biden carried New York’s 3rd by more than eight percentage points.
What’s more, 76% of Long Island voters support abortion rights, including 42% who say the issue could determine their vote, according to a recent Newsday poll.
The race between Santos and Zimmerman is nonetheless neck-and-neck. Zimmerman led Santos by one point among likely voters, with 14% undecided, according to a late August and early September poll commissioned by the advocacy group U.S. Term Limits.