Former Republican Lt. Governor and current Democratic candidate for Senate John Bohlinger released a video today telling Montana voters that he is pro-choice, in response to “innuendo” that he has a weak record on reproductive rights. As I’ve said before, I’m glad that Mr. Bohlinger seems to have realized that he was terribly wrong on reproductive rights as recently as ten years ago, but the video released today was hardly persuasive.
For one thing, Bohlinger’s primary defense rests on his “standing beside” Governor Schweitzer as the governor vetoed anti-choice legislation during the “batcrap crazy” session of 2011. That’s not terribly useful information. Bohlinger didn’t have to sign or veto those bills himself, and I can find no record of him publicly condemning Montana Republicans at that time for these anti-choice bills.
More significantly, some of those anti-choice bills that Governor Schweitzer vetoed had nearly the exact same language as bills that Mr. Bohlinger voted for as a legislator. For example, in 2011, Schweitzer vetoed HB 167, which would have criminalized an offense involving the death of an unborn child. In 2001, Bohlinger voted for a Fetal Protection Act which “would have made it a separate crime—and imposed additional criminal penalties—to injure or kill a fetus by assaulting a pregnant woman.”
A folksy video assuring viewers that Mr. Bohlinger is pro-choice simply isn’t enough. He’s going to need to explain to voters a) why his rhetoric now should be taken more seriously than his record as a legislator, and b) how and when he changed his mind on this core issue of women’s health and rights.
As a final note, it’s probably not terribly compelling when a candidate releases a video called “John Bohlinger on a Woman’s Right to Choose” and then only speaks about reproductive health for 56 seconds before transitioning to another subject for two-thirds of the video.