- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Republican Phil Scott said Monday he generally supports abortion rights but if he’s elected governor he could imagine signing bills barring some late-term abortions or restricting minors’ access to the procedure.

He added, though, that given the strong Democratic majorities in the Legislature, he doubted he would see such bills.

Abortion has become an issue in the Vermont gubernatorial race 43 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized it nationwide thanks to an ad a political action committee affiliated with Planned Parenthood began running nearly two weeks ago and a responding ad by the Scott campaign saying the Planned Parenthood message is based on “distortions and lies.”

Scott, a three-term lieutenant governor and former state senator, has sought to focus his campaign against Democrat Sue Minter on his promises to hold the line on taxes, improve the state’s economy and work on making the state a more affordable place to live. Instead Monday he found himself talking about issues he variously has described as “wedges” and distractions.

“I’m pro-choice,” Scott said. “I believe it. I really do. I’m just not pro-choice enough.”

The comments came after Democrats held a news conference faulting Scott’s past support for measures restricting late-term abortions and requiring parents to be notified in most cases when minors seek to terminate pregnancies.

The Democrats, including state Rep. Mary Sullivan, state House candidate Mari Cordes and party spokeswoman Christina Amestoy, said they would welcome Scott discussing and defending his positions on abortion but would not stand for his campaign attacking Planned Parenthood.

“There are differences between you and Democrat Sue Minter when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to choose and women’s access to health care,” said a letter the women gave to Scott’s campaign coordinator. “It is unacceptable, however, to attack Planned Parenthood directly with negative TV ads, especially at a time when women’s health care is under constant assault from national Republicans.”

Minter has said, including in a televised debate last week, that she supports abortion rights “without exceptions.”

Democrats said they also were made suspicious by a recommendation from a political action committee affiliated with the Vermont Right to Life Committee that voters opposed to abortion support Scott.

Sharon Toborg, treasurer with that committee, said Monday that “we look at him (Scott) as certainly preferable to Sue Minter, and that’s why we recommend him.”

Toborg said the two candidates are “one who supports abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy and one who at least is not going to march in lockstep with the abortion lobby in Vermont.”

On parental notification, Scott said he would want legislation to include exceptions for minors who were being abused at home. He said any law would have to “protect young girls who are victims of sexual crimes.”

On late-term abortions, Scott said he would allow them if the mother’s or fetus’ life were in danger.

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