ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — With their election just weeks out, Sen. Al Franken and his Republican challenger Mike McFadden have seized on the issues of women’s health and Ebola to motivate voters.
Franken continued to press women’s health and access to contraception at a meeting with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and other women’s health advocates in St. Paul. Meanwhile, McFadden called a news conference Thursday to sound the alarm about the country’s ability to handle an Ebola outbreak and outline a handful of proposals to halt the spread of the virus.READ MORE: Hawkeyes Thwart Gophers Comeback Bid For 81-71 Victory
U.S. health officials have spent the week trying to quell panic about a possible outbreak of Ebola, a virus characterized by vomiting and diarrhea that has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa.
Two American nurses have been diagnosed with Ebola after treating a Liberian man who died of the disease in Dallas. One was cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a flight despite a high temperature.
McFadden said that misstep highlights his view that “we are not remotely prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.”
On Thursday, he called for a lower fever threshold — at which people who’ve had contact with Ebola patients will be barred from travel — and suggested a temporary travel ban from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. He also said the U.S. should boost staff at CDC call centers and called on President Barack Obama to appoint a cabinet member to coordinate disease response.
“Someone has got to take control of this,” McFadden said.
Politicians from both parties have floated the travel ban proposal. Franken said it’s worth considering but worried about a possible impact on U.S. aid workers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.READ MORE: Man Arrested In Willmar After Fleeing Traffic Stop, Firing At Officer
McFadden criticized Franken for focusing on “issues that divide Minnesotans” rather than the spread of Ebola.
Franken’s campaign took issue with McFadden’s suggestion that Franken hasn’t done enough to tackle Ebola. Earlier this week, Franken joined Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Amy Klobuchar in urging the CDC to boost Ebola screening at the Minneapolis airport.
“Mike McFadden had a press conference. Al Franken went to work,” campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said.
But Franken spent Thursday afternoon talking about women’s health and access to contraception, an issue that’s played prominently into his campaign for a second term. Franken and a panel discussed the implications of the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed certain companies with religious objections to avoid providing free contraceptives as required by President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Richards and other panelists repeatedly praised Franken for his calls to overturn the decision and other women’s issues in the Senate. And they bashed McFadden — never by name — for his support of that decision, which they said hinders women’s access to birth control.
McFadden said Franken is making a political play at the female vote.
“It’s right out of the Democrats’ political guideline,” he said, later adding that women’s health issues are also important to him.MORE NEWS: Proposed Science Museum In Fargo-Moorhead Gets $1 Million Gift
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)