/ Modified may 29, 2024 6:21 p.m.

House Minority Whip backs Engel, slams Ciscomani on women's health record

United States House Minority Whip Katherine Clark and democratic congressional hopeful Kirsten Engel tour Planned Parenthood to discuss abortion access.

Planned Parenthood Tour with Kirsten Engel in the hallway United States House Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Congressional candidate Kirsten Engel tour the Southern Arizona Regional Health Center of Planned Parenthood on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. The group of women stand in the portion of the medical office where abortions are administered.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

United States House Minority Whip Katherine Clark joined Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Engel for a campaign stop touring Planned Parenthood in Tucson on Wednesday morning.

“It's not just about partisan politics or power,” Clark said in support of Engel. “It's about keeping healthcare accessible for everyone. What we've seen from Congressman Ciscomani is he comes back to Tucson and talks about moderation and talks about health care for women…But really, he has a very clear record of votes in Washington D.C., and they are anti-health care for women.”

Engel is challenging Republican incumbent Juan Ciscomani in a rematch run for Congressional District 6–what some polls consider a toss-up district. In 2022, Engel lost to Ciscomani by just over 5,000 votes out of nearly 350,000 cast. In a swing district like the one in Southern Arizona, Clark said there’s no way to be moderate when it comes to hot topic issues this election cycle.

“There's nothing moderate about banning health care and taking that away from families. There is nothing moderate about saying I'm not going to address the immigration crisis,” Clark said. “She's not going to get caught up in the politics of Washington and that extremism, because she understands it and is grounded in the voters and the families here at home.”

Engel–like many democrats–is honing in on abortion access as a key campaign issue this upcoming election. Last week, Engel moderated a panel with two women–surrogates for the Biden Harris campaign–who shared their experiences about how the lack of abortion access put their lives at risk when their pregnancies began to fail.

“These are the impacts of depriving women of that health care,” Engel said. “Some of the stories that we heard last week were just tragic in terms of how they have impacted these women's lives. It's important for people to understand that these are the stakes of the 2024 election.”

Planned Parenthood Tour with Kirsten Engel Democratic Congressional candidate Kirsten Engel (right) and United States House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (middle) talk about Arizona's abortion access during a tour of a Planned Parenthood facility on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

Ciscomani, in an interview with AZPM earlier this month, said that he was “clear” that he opposes a national abortion ban.

“Women's health is very important to everyone, and it's going to be,” Ciscomani told AZPM in early May. “So it should be a top issue this cycle, and it's going to continue to be.”

On his campaign website, Ciscomani says he is pro-life, rejects the extremes, and trusts women.

“I’m for timetables and exceptions, including for rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” his campaign website reads. “In Congress, I support policies that respect women and protect new life. Part of that means increased investments in women’s health research.”

However, Ciscomani has a voting record that shows he has supported bills that lean into anti-abortion values, like fetal personhood. In 2023, one of his first votes in office was to pass the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.”

“If an abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of the United States, and entitled to all the protections of such laws,” the act reads.

Another bill Ciscomani supported this year includes the “Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act”, which would have blocked a provision that prohibited states from giving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to crisis pregnancy resource centers–nonprofit organizations aimed to stop women from receiving abortion care.

Kirsten Engel and Katherine Clark Democratic Congressional candidate Kirsten Engel (right) stands next to United States House Minority Whip Katherine Clark after a tour of Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. During their tour, Engel and Clark learned more about the fluctuation of abortion access in Arizona since the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision.
Paola Rodriguez/AZPM News

When asked about other topics like immigration, Engel said Republicans are the ones slowing down reform.

“We're looking for real solutions on the border,” Engel said. “Solutions that have bipartisan support like that Senate Bill and that is definitely an issue that I'm also working on, in addition to abortion rights.”

Last week the U.S. Senate voted down a bipartisan border bill. Senators like Arizona’s independent Kyrsten Sinema blamed both parties for “political theater” regarding the border.

“All talk and no action goes both ways,” Sinema said in her Senate floor speech last week. “Today, the Senate will hold a show vote whose sole purpose is to point the finger back at the other party — yet another cynical political game. These games demonstrate exactly why Americans have lost faith in their elected leaders — a Congress, bickering and fighting for power instead of solving problems and making progress, any kind of progress, for regular people.”

When asked about how to navigate a bipartisan approach to issues like abortion and immigration, Clark said that finding partners across the aisle is “not the case anymore.”

“What I see across the aisle now, and what really worries me, is this following and giving the gavels and the power in the House GOP to the most extreme factions in their caucus,” Clark said. “What does that mean? It means we have issues like (abortion) that impact Arizonans."

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