PORTLAND — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers sought to clarify his support of abortion rights Thursday, but didn’t put the issue to rest with supporters of his rival Angus King.
King’s wife, Mary Herman, was among those who said Summers could not be trusted to protect legal access to abortion if he were a senator.
Summers and his campaign insisted that he remains committed to abortion rights. “Charlie is pro-choice and always has been,” said his spokesman, Drew Brandewie.
The King campaign accused Summers of flip-flopping and suggested the issue is why he pulled out of a candidates’ forum on women’s issues Thursday night at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
Summers’ campaign blamed scheduling conflicts for missing two forums held Thursday.
King and Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill support access to abortion and federal funding for family planning agencies.
Summers has a long history of saying he is pro-choice, and he voted to protect access to abortion as a state senator.
Before the Republican primary in June, he told the Portland Press Herald that he supports access to abortion but opposes federal funding of abortion services.
However, the Bangor Daily News published a statement from Summers before the primary that said he supports access to abortion only in cases of rape and incest and to protect the mother. He also cited rape, incest and the mother’s health in an interview on Maine Public Radio earlier this year.
On Thursday, Summers said his campaign staff made a mistake when it provided the answer to a questionnaire from the Bangor Daily News.
He said in an interview on Maine Public Radio on Thursday that he supports abortion access for those reasons, but would not limit access under other circumstances.
“I am pro-choice specifically for three reasons: rape, incest, life of the mother. I think that those are instances that, among others, when something like that may be necessary,” he said.
State Rep. Ann Haskell, D-Portland, said Summers’ recent statements make it hard to trust him on the issue.
She said that eliminating federal funding for abortion would effectively restrict access for low-income women. And she said she’s troubled that Summers cites specific reasons such as rape and incest.
“His public position appears to be shifting, or confused at best,” said Haskell, a King supporter.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: