Winning The Battle Against Cervical Cancer

Political ads with messages on women’s health and safety are landing in voters’ mailboxes in the suburban Wake County districts where candidates are competing for white women’s votes.

State Democratic Party mailers targeting Rep. Nelson Dollar and Sen. Tamara Barringer, both Cary Republicans, claim the politicians did not provide money to test a backlog of 15,000 rape kits. The ad targeting Dollar says he “refused to provide funding.” The mailer on Barringer said she “voted to deny funding.”

In an interview, Dollar called the ad about him “a total lie” because there are fewer than 15,000 kits to be tested and the legislature has directed money in past years to reduce backlogs. Dollar is the senior budget writer in the House.

Barringer said she had not seen the ad, but called its assertions described to her in a telephone interview “absolutely false.”

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“I think it reflects a lack of respect for the facts and a lack of respect for women to put out something so blatantly false,” she said. Barringer is seeking her fourth full term.

Voters are also getting bombarded with ads about Dollar and his support for women’s health care. The seven-term incumbent is either a champion for women’s health or an enemy, depending on who’s doing the talking.

The NC Democratic Party mailers about the rape kits are rooted in Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein’s objection to Republicans’ decision to not include $2 million for rape-kit testing in the state budget this year.

A statewide inventory of rape kits in the possession of law enforcement agencies across the state found 15,160 untested, The News & Observer reported. Of those untested kits, 3,820 were connected to cases where investigations determined the allegations were unfounded, and another 2,741 were connected to cases that were resolved. That left about half, or 7,545 kits in neither category.

Stein said he wanted all kits tested regardless of the category, The N&O reported.

The lack of funding for rape-kit testing was developing as a campaign issue during the short session. After Stein’s criticism, seven female Republican senators, including Barringer, sent out a statement criticizing Stein’s predecessor in the Attorney General’s office, Gov. Roy Cooper, for allowing the backlog to grow despite state funding.

“Under Democratic and Republican budgets dating back to the 2003-04 budget, state taxpayer money was set aside to test these rape kits,” they wrote.

The legislature later passed a law to track rape kits, but did not include any funding for testing. A House Democrat was blocked from proposing an amendment that would have provided $2 million for testing, WRAL reported.

Dollar said not all 15,000 kits need to be tested, that the state had put more than $18 million directly and indirectly toward the backlog since 2014. Dollar counted money appropriated for a new State Crime Lab in western North Carolina, which opened last year.

The law will track every rape kit, Dollar said, then the state will know which need to be tested. “When we get this system in place, we will be able to do the disposition on all these cases, on all these rape kits,” he said. “We as Republicans inherited a horrendous problem and we have put funding and the mechanism in place to permanently solve this problem.”

The State Republican Party sent a strikingly pink mailer to voters in Rep. Nelson Dollar’s district to highlight his successful push to raise money for breast and cervical cancer prevention programs. Dollar sponsored a law last year for a check-off box on tax returns that allows filers to direct part or all of their refund to the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, which the state Department of Health and Human Services administers.

The program provides early detection for low-income women, Dollar said. “It’s one of the things I’m proudest of because I know it will save lives,” he said.

“I take a back seat to no one in the General Assembly in working on issues specific to women’s health care,” Dollar said. “I’ve been doing that for pretty much the entirety of my career in the General Assembly.”

Dollar appears in a TV ad with voice-over narration that calls him “a leading advocate for women’s health.”

State Democrats followed the Republican mailer with their own that has a Photoshopped image of Dollar standing between two women, one in a lab coat looking at another sitting on an exam table. The text says Dollar voted to interfere with women’s health care by limiting access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, limiting access to birth control, defunding teen pregnancy prevention programs and forcing doctors to send ultrasounds to the Department of Health and Human Services in Raleigh.

The ad references the 2015 budget bill, which prohibited the state from paying an agency to offer birth control services or run pregnancy prevention or parenting programs if the agency also provided abortions. Another law prevented state money from paying for teen pregnancy prevention programs run by organizations that provide abortions. A third law required doctors to send to DHHS ultrasounds of miscarriages or abortions after 16 weeks of gestation.

“Representative Dollar is desperate to save his seat after spending a decade pushing some of the most dangerous women’s health legislation in the country,” State Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said in a statement. ““Dollar even denied a simple request to completely clear the rape kits backlog, deciding to instead leave thousands untested. We believe voters, especially women, will agree that his decision and record speak louder than some election year pandering.”

In response to Dollar’s TV ad, the political arm of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic began distributing a digital ad saying Dollar is “trying to come off as something he’s not.”

The ad criticizes Dollar for defunding Planned Parenthood and for voting against Medicaid expansion.

“Nelson Dollar could not be further from the truth in claiming to be an advocate for women or women’s healthcare. In reality, as a senior member of the House, Dollar led the conservative majority in passing some of the most stringent anti-women’s health legislation in the country,” Paige Johnson, Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic vice president of external affairs, said in a statement.

The organization has endorsed Dollar’s Democratic opponent Julie von Haefen. Libertarian Robyn Pegram is also running in the district.

EMILY’s List, a political action committee that supports Democratic women candidates, derided Dollar’s claim that he is a champion for women’s health.

Dollar supported anti-abortion laws that included a 72-hour waiting period and mandatory ultrasounds, EMILY’s List said in a statement, and he funneled more than $1 million in state money to counseling clinics that discourage women from getting abortions.

Abortion-rights groups say these clinics, which used to be called crisis pregnancy centers, masquerade as abortion clinics that then try to coerce women out of the procedure, The News & Observer reported.

Nelson Dollar’s claim that he is a ‘leading advocate for women’s health’ is laughable and insulting to the women of North Carolina,” Christina Reynolds, EMILY’s List vice president of communications, said in a statement.

EMILY’s List has also endorsed von Haefen.

Bonner: 919-829-4821; @Lynn_Bonner

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Source : https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article220859635.html

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