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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

On abortion: Eastern Washington congressional candidates offer positions

Fifth Congressional District candidates sit at desks at the congressional debate at the North Central High School Auditorium on June 4, 2024. The debate was moderated by North Central student Daisy Tuter, Spokesman-Review city hall reporter Emry Dinman and Inlander staff writer Nate Sanford, sitting center stage. Candidates weren’t asked about their position on abortion at the debate, but they have a wide variety of positions on the topic.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Few events have colored national politics as deeply as the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, stating that there is no Constitutional right to abortion and conferring authority to regulate the procedure to individual states.

Among efforts to implement a nationwide ban on abortion, codify the right to abortion access in federal law or maintain the new status quo of states alone having the authority to make relevant laws, The Spokesman-Review asked for the positions of the 11 candidates running to represent Eastern Washington in Congress.

Ten responded. Rick Valentine Flynn, who filed for the seat as a Republican, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

The issue split along party lines. All five Democratic candidates were in favor of codifying the right to abortion nationwide, including OB-GYN Bernadine Bank, registered nurse and clinical assistant professor at WSU Bobbi Bennett-Wolcott, former diplomat Carmela Conroy, small business consultant Ann Marie Danimus and Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Welde.

Bank further believed that the ultimate goal should be a constitutional amendment protecting abortion, though she acknowledged this would be exceptionally difficult to accomplish, arguing that a decision made by Congress would be a “Band-aid” that may only last as long as the next election.

“We had Roe for 50 years, but we’ve realized that wasn’t good enough,” she said. “We have to have that protection in place in a solid way. Even in the state of Washington, we’re at any point only one election away from losing reproductive rights here.”

Conroy and Welde both argued that there also needed to be a reinforced federal right to privacy, which was the basis behind the Roe decision and a number of other precedent-setting Supreme Court decisions that undid sodomy and miscegenation laws, for instance.

Every Republican candidate who spoke with The Spokesman-Review described themselves as pro-life and argued in favor of either a nationwide ban or maintaining the status quo of abortion being a states rights issue.

Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle, talk show radio host Rene Holaday and state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber all said that they would be in favor of a nationwide abortion ban with varying exceptions. Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner said he would not vote for a ban, preferring instead to leave the issue up to individual states to decide.

“I want (this issue) to be as close to the people as possible and to build on as much consensus, and I do recognize that the voters of Washington state have reaffirmed abortion rights on multiple occasions,” Baumgartner said. “It should be left as much as possible at the local level.”

Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel was alone in declining to declare a stance either way, saying he believed the Supreme Court had decided correctly two years ago to overturn Roe v. Wade, but refused to answer a “hypothetical” about how he’d vote on a ban.

He said that he has not concerned himself with the issue “to the 10th degree” and argued that the issue was divisive and the media benefited from that divisiveness.

“I don’t know that there’s been a bill introduced on a national ban,” Dansel said. “I really honestly believe that this is the byproduct of wanting to get a juicy election story, frankly. I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical.”

Within months of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill that would ban abortion at 15 weeks nationwide, though he was not successful in getting it passed.

Candidates were also asked a series of other questions on the topic of abortion meant to probe to what degree they wanted to see additional restrictions or easier access to the procedure.

Time limits

Though the candidates’ general stance on abortion access split relatively cleanly along party lines, candidates were more likely to disagree on how long after conception an abortion should be allowed, if they believed it should be at all under normal circumstances.

Bingle and Holaday both said that they would prefer a ban from the moment of conception, though Bingle added that he would be willing to vote for a ban after a short time period, such as at six weeks.

Bingle argued that his fellow Republicans have not been bold enough on the issue, shying away from legislating based on their moral code when an issue may prove unpopular.

“If we truly believe what we believe, don’t hide it,” he said. “If the people don’t want you, they don’t want you, but I want people in office who are honest.”

Maycumber said she was interested in some kind of time limit, pointing to efforts for a 16- to 18-week ban, but did not say where exactly she would prefer to draw that line.

Baumgartner maintained that the issue should be decided by individual states, arguing that Congress should not weigh in.

Dansel repeated that he did not want to “get into hypotheticals,” saying only that at the very least there “should be no late-term abortions.” He declined to define what he meant by “late-term abortion,” saying that readers of The Spokesman-Review would understand.

Democrats, meanwhile, split on whether they supported allowing abortions to the point of viability, which was the nationwide threshold prior to the Dobbs decision, or whether there should be a time limit at all.

Bank, Danimus and Welde believed that abortion should be available nationwide prior to 24 weeks, the modern standard of viability, at which point there is a chance for a fetus to survive in a medical setting after delivery. Bennett-Wolcott and Conroy argued that there should be no federally mandated time limit, believing the decision should continue to be made only by an individual and their health care provider.

“This viability line is based on a particular religious perspective or cultural perspective, and I don’t think that any … pregnant patient and her health care providers should be bound by a majority decision of the people in their community or in their nation,” Conroy said. “It really has to be left up to them just like every other medical decision.”


Most Democratic candidates said that they would be willing to undo the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal funds, including Medicaid, from being used for abortions except in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Bank was the only candidate who said she would maintain that rule, arguing that the allowable exceptions were sufficient to keep the nearly 50-year precedent. She also argued that its provisions should force states with the strictest abortion bans to have the same exceptions, arguing that the federal rule should supersede state law.

Bennett-Wolcott, Conroy, Danimus and Welde all agreed that the Hyde Amendment should be undone. Bennett-Wolcott and Conroy emphasized that access to the procedure should not be dependent on a person’s ability to pay, while Welde argued that the Hyde Amendment interferes with his view that “the government needs to get out of the way.”

Danimus argued that the Hyde Amendment would preferably only be undone alongside additional federal funding to support families, including subsidized child care and tax credits, to minimize the amount of abortion decisions being made due to poverty.

However, if she was not able to get the votes to implement those programs, she would still be in favor of ending the provisions of the Hyde Amendment. She also argued it would “naturally dissolve with universal health care,” which Danimus supports.


As states have moved to implement abortion bans, elected officials in some have also pushed to restrict traveling to states where the procedure is legal.

These include Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law, which criminalizes assisting a pregnant minor to cross state lines in order to get an abortion. Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador in 2023 also opined that Idaho law prohibited medical providers from referring someone to out-of-state abortion services, though he withdrew that later shortly after a lawsuit was filed.

A number of Texas counties have also passed ordinances allowing private citizens to sue someone who travels across those counties’ roads to access an abortion.

Democratic candidates all supported out-of-state travel to access abortion, and most agreed that federal protections should be passed. Conroy believed that current constitutional protections should be sufficient to combat these laws, but said she would consider a bill if it became clearly necessary to protect the right to travel for an abortion.

Republicans were more split on the issue. Baumgartner argued that it would be extremely difficult to enforce travel restrictions and believed they did more harm to the pro-life movement than good. Bingle said he doesn’t believe states should prosecute someone crossing state lines to get an abortion where it is legal, but “would not go out of my way to support extra protections.”

Holaday said she supported making it illegal to travel to another state for an abortion.

Dansel said the issue should be decided by individual states.

“If somebody in Colorado commits wire fraud in another state,” it would still be illegal, he added.

When it was noted that wire fraud is illegal in every state, Dansel declined to further articulate his position.

He also declined to answer whether the interstate travel component complicated his view that this issue should be left to individual states.

Maycumber was initially unfamiliar with the issue. When provided examples, she said she supported Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law and argued that combating human trafficking should be a priority for the government.

Supporting families

Several candidates also argued that additional support for families and mothers were needed.

Danimus argued that subsidized child care and family tax credits would minimize abortions made on economic grounds.

“I can prevent more abortions with my policy than any Republican in the race,” she said.

Holaday also argued in favor of more financial support to prospective parents who need aid, pointing to church programs that support a new mother for the first year after a child is born.

“Instead of saying there will be no abortions and no help for you, we want you to have the baby and also don’t want you to be at a disadvantage,” Holaday said. “Because the studies show a huge portion of the women who choose abortions make the choice based on financial situations.”

Dansel argued that it should be easier to adopt a child. While some adoption requirements are necessary to prevent “kids being thrown to the wolves,” Dansel believes some red tape is unnecessarily onerous.

“I think we could do so many different things about all the requirements and hoops people need to jump through (to adopt),” he said. “I would do everything possible to eliminate circumstances like that.”