FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Supreme Court's decision Monday to allow some companies to opt out of a new law requiring them to pay for contraceptive coverage for their employees thrust the issue into Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes sparred over the ruling, one of the few times they have done so over a social issue in one of the country's most-watched Senate races.
"Today's Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear," McConnell said in a statement.
Grimes said the Supreme Court "got it wrong" when it comes to corporations, adding it is OK for churches to be exempt if they choose.
"I support the right of all American women to have full access to contraception," she said.
Political observers said McConnell has been talking more about social issues such as abortion during this campaign than he has for most of his 30-year Senate career. That could be a byproduct of this year's Republican primary, where McConnell had to defeat Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin.
"McConnell has never run on social issues," said Al Cross, director for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. "I think he's going to continue to talk about abortion because he knows that it is an issue that's important to some of those 40 percent of the people who didn't vote for him in the primary."
Grimes has said abortion is a choice "between a woman, her doctor and her God" and she does not want the federal government telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies. McConnell's campaign has not often criticized Grimes for her stance on abortion.
He spoke at the National Right to Live convention in Louisville on Saturday, where he pledged to support federal legislation to limit abortion.
A recent NBC News/Marist poll of Kentucky adults found 67 percent think abortion should be illegal, including 21 percent who say it should be illegal without exception and 46 percent who say it should be illegal except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother is in danger.
The survey of 2,353 registered voters was conducted by telephone with both landline and cellphones from April 30 to May 6. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.