Joe Cunningham ad spotlights 12-year old rape survivor who had an abortion

South Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham is out with an emotional new ad spotlighting a rape survivor who, at the age of just 12, ended her pregnancy that resulted from the brutal attack.

The ad features Fran, whose last name was not used, a retired teacher and school administrator telling her traumatic story of being raped by two men when she was 12 years old.

She opens the ad describing how the incident began, babysitting for a family. The father returned home early with a friend and, as Fran describes, the two men locked the other children outside as they each took turns raping her.

“When they were finished they showed me a gun, insisted I change the sheets before I left, and sent me home, walking in the dark, bleeding and in pain. I never told anyone,” she says through sometimes broken words.

But her trauma wasn’t over. The ad goes on to explain how Fran found out she was pregnant and made the decision to undergo an abortion, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v. Wade protecting a women’s right to an abortion.

“Roe vs. Wade gave me the opportunity to become an educator, a mother and a grandmother. I did what was best for an 88-pound 12-year old with no other options,” Fran said. “I am a survivor of rape. My body is not yours and it’s not the state’s. It’s mine. Yet our Governor, Henry McMaster wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.”

The 19th News, which first obtained the ad, reports that it’s one of more than a dozen Democratic television and digital ads centering on painful abortion stories from patients and providers. 

Democrats, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, have been focused on the issue in the Midterm Elections, with promises to work to codify protections in Roe into federal law, as well as condemnations of Republicans who support abortion bans, often without exceptions for rape or incest. 

Cunningham is challenging incumbent Gov. McMaster this year in an election that put McMaster about 7 percentage points ahead, according to an internal poll from Cunningham’s campaign. That margin is close enough that Democrats still have hope they can flip the seat in purple South Carolina. 

The state is nearly evenly split in voter registration between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have a slight registration advantage, with just over 1.5 million voters to the GOP’s just under 1.5 million. Another nearly 350,000 voters are non-partisan, according to the latest L2 voter data.

Still, not a single poll in FiveThirtyEight’s roundup in the race puts Cunningham closer than 6 percentage points to McMaster.

An Echelon Insights poll taken the first week of September shows the closest margin with McMaster at +6. A Blueprint Polling survey, taken in late August, shows McMaster with the widest advantage at +11. A Trafalgar group poll also taken in late August puts McMaster at a +8 advantage. 

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