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Wisconsin’s top Republican U.S. Senate candidates, Kevin Nicholson and Leah Vukmir, told an advocacy group they support banning abortion with no exceptions and new restrictions on stem cell research.

Nicholson and Vukmir also told the group Pro-Life Wisconsin that they favor a federal “personhood” law, a controversial measure that some experts say could criminalize certain forms of birth control.

Both Nicholson, of Delafield, and Vukmir, of Brookfield, got a perfect “100 percent” rating from Pro-Life Wisconsin, the state’s most uncompromising anti-abortion group. The rating is based on their answers to the group’s candidate survey.

For Nicholson, a management consultant and Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who has not held elected office, the survey gives the most complete look yet at how his abortion views have changed. Nicholson is a former college Democrat who once said he supported abortion rights.

Vukmir, the assistant majority leader in the state Senate, long has been known as one of its most anti-abortion-rights members. She got the endorsement of Pro-Life Wisconsin during a past campaign for the Legislature, where she has voted for a host of anti-abortion bills including Wisconsin’s 20-week abortion ban.

Both Republicans contrast sharply with the incumbent they hope to unseat, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, who supports abortion rights. Vukmir and Nicholson are running in the Aug. 14 primary for the GOP nod to oppose Baldwin.

Baldwin has a 100-percent rating on the scorecard of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the nation’s biggest provider of reproductive health services, including birth control and abortion.

Pro-Life Wisconsin spokesman Matt Sande acknowledged it’s unusual to have both leading GOP candidates for a statewide office get a perfect score on the survey.

Among the survey questions to which Nicholson and Vukmir answered “yes,” according to Pro-Life Wisconsin, were if they would vote:

  • To ban abortion “in all cases.” Such a stance would not permit exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or that threaten the life of the mother.
  • For a so-called “personhood” bill to extend constitutional protections to every “pre-born human person.” Such a bill, according to the survey, would say “the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent ... at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
  • For certain restrictions on stem cells used for medical research, including banning the use of “stem cells extracted from human embryos.”
  • For amending the federal Obamacare law to prohibit “direct taxpayer funding of elective abortions, the subsidization of private plans that cover abortion and mandatory coverage of contraception.”

Nicholson’s campaign, asked about the survey, issued a statement slamming Baldwin as an “extremist” for her position on “partial-birth” abortion, a practice she has voted against banning.

Baldwin’s campaign declined to comment.

Nicholson spokesman Brandon Moody said Nicholson “will support legislation that appreciably saves and protects innocent human life — that is the ultimate goal.”

“That legislation needs to be enforceable, and will not preclude the use of contraceptives,” Moody said.

Vukmir spokesman Mattias Gugel said in a statement that Vukmir “supports all legislation that protects unborn babies.”

Gugel said Vukmir has supported defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortions beyond 20 weeks, and “she will continue to be a pro-life champion in the U.S. Senate.”

Personhood measures consistently have been rejected in states where they’ve been put up for voter referendums, and they are not unanimously favored among anti-abortion advocates.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is among the groups that say a personhood measure could criminalize certain forms of birth control.

Alta Charo, a professor with expertise in law and bioethics at UW-Madison, said the same. Charo, who served on former President Barack Obama’s transition team, said certain infertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization also could be affected.

Pro-Life Wisconsin contends that “there are no situations where abortion, defined as the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child, is medically necessary to save the life of the mother,” according to a memo provided by the group. The group favors “equal care for mother and child” instead.

This also is controversial in anti-abortion circles; some acknowledge there are circumstances in which abortions are medically necessary.

Charo said the stem cell restrictions for which the candidates pledged support could “hinder research on everything from cancer to infertility.”

“In addition, it would put an end to a signature area of (UW-Madison) research renown. Even Tommy Thompson, who opposed most reproductive rights, supported embryonic stem cell research,” Charo said of the Republican former governor of Wisconsin.

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.