Barr on abortion: Where does he stand?

Rep. Andy Barr
is scheduled to host McCarthy at Keeneland on Oct. 31.
Rep. Andy Barr is scheduled to host McCarthy at Keeneland on Oct. 31.

You've got to wonder what it was Republican Andy Barr wanted to talk about in those 19 debates he proposed in his race to unseat Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles).

Because Monday when the two finally met, with independent Randolph Vance, in a debate on Kentucky Educational Television moderated by Bill Goodman, Barr refused to clarify or elaborate his own position on abortion, an issue he's put front and center in this race.

Barr, you'll remember, famously used a photo of his own baby girl, accompanied by the question "Who'll be on her side?" on a mailer this fall in which he accused Chandler of being a "pro-abortion extremist."

When Goodman posed a question from a listener about abortion to the candidates, Barr was prepared with "I'm proud to be pro-life," and then launched into an attack on end-of-life decisions under Obamacare.

When Goodman pressed, asking about any exceptions under which he would find abortion acceptable, Barr dodged again, launching into a dissertation on what issues might come before Congress.

Goodman persisted, asking specifically if Barr would make exceptions to a ban on abortion for the health of the mother or cases in which a pregnancy resulted from incest or rape. Barr weaved, saying we need to promote a "culture of life."

Goodman, bless him, said, "Let me try one more time," and asked about Barr's personal feeling on exceptions to a ban on abortion. Barr returned to response No. 2, talking about issues likely to come before Congress.

Barr, no doubt, was trying to avoid stepping into the verbal mire that other Republican hopefuls have slogged through this season, as they struggled to choose between the life and health of a woman and that of her fetus, and to define rape, legitimate rape, forcible rape, etc., etc.

It's easy to understand Barr's political dilemma but, after this demonstration, equally easy to question his sincerity about wanting to fully thrash out issues in a series of debates so voters could have a clear choice.

Although, perhaps, if there had been 19 debates we might finally have gotten the details of Barr's position on this wedge issue he chose to raise in such a personal manner.