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Arizona Congressman Paul GosarEXPAND
Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In Abortion 'Poll,' Gosar Asks When a Mother Should Be Free to 'Kill a Baby'

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar posted a so-called "poll" on his official House website containing medically inaccurate and inflammatory language about abortion.

Gosar's questionnaire reads like a guide to anti-abortion rhetoric, including multiple references to killing babies, discussion of the "fetal heartbeat," and an invocation of God.

It's unclear how Gosar plans to use the results of the poll. What is clear is that its questions and answers cater to the subset of Republicans who want to eliminate abortion entirely.

His office did not respond to request for comment.

Gosar's poll — titled "Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?" — appears to be inspired by a recent wave of extremely restrictive abortion laws, with some states banning pregnancy terminations at six or eight weeks. Lawmakers in states like Alabama and Georgia have said a "fetal heartbeat" can be detected at six weeks, though doctors who support abortion access criticize that claim as unscientific.

One of Gosar's questions asks whether the Supreme Court should "modify" Roe v. Wade to "allow protection of unborn babies after six weeks?"

The "yes" answers includes an addendum: "The heartbeat is the universally recognized indicator of life." The "no" choice is paired with an incendiary statement: "A mother should always have the right to kill her unborn baby no matter when the baby’s heartbeat is detectable."

Gretchen Ely, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, studies abortion access. She said the choices in Gosar's poll leave little room for the gray areas of the abortion debate. Gosar's poll, she said, implies that a woman has a full-term infant as soon as she's pregnant. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, the majority of Americans support allowing for the termination of pregnancies in the first trimester.

"It's not really a poll at all," Ely said. "It's really just an attempt to get people who already agree with this to say, 'Yeah, that's exactly what I think.' Or if you don't agree with it, to frame you as a terrible person."

There's also the question of whether a "fetal heartbeat" exists at six weeks at all. As states passed anti-abortion bills in May, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement describing such languages as misleading.

“Pregnancy and fetal development are a continuum," said ACOG president Dr. Ted L. Anderson. "What is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops."

Gosar's loaded questionnaire also includes a question asking when should a "doctor or mother be charged with murder of a baby." The choices include: "post-birth abortion only," abortions after six months, and "Never. A mother and her doctor should always be legally free to kill a baby."

Critics noted that "post-birth abortion" does not exist and that it's illegal to kill babies. 

Gosar's final question asks, "Should aborted baby parts be allowed for sale?" The two possible choices are saying that aborted fetuses should be "should be given a proper funeral and returned to God" and "Yes, if scientists think aborted baby parts can be used to help science."

The question likely refers to a 2015 controversy involving misleadingly edited videos that anti-abortion activists said showed Planned Parenthood employees offering to sell fetal body parts.

Investigations in more than 10 states, including Arizona, found the claims in the video to be baseless.

Dr. Julie Kwatra, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Scottsdale, called the poll "irresponsible" and noted that Gosar has voted against legislation supporting equality for women, which in turn could help reduce abortions.

For example, he voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and against the Paycheck Fairness Act.

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