Amid Abortion Rights Outrage, Board of Supervisors Candidate Lindsey Horvath’s Past Remarks Draw Scrutiny

The women’s reproductive freedom advocate, now running for a major L.A. County office, says she believes life begins at conception

At a time when abortion is one of the leading issues galvanizing many Democrats to vote in November, Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath holds a position on the matter that would probably surprise many of her longtime West Hollywood constituents. 

As Horvath seeks higher office, vacating her seat on the WeHo Council to run for Sheila Kuehl’s seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, her past remarks on abortion are making the rounds. 

The 40-year-old University of Notre Dame graduate, who sings in her church choir every Sunday, divulged as recently as two years ago to a University of Southern California student journalist her belief that life begins at conception and that abortion amounts to the termination of that life.

In 2020, California Catholic Daily reprinted the interview on the emotionally charged subject that Horvath had given to Chandler France, then the executive director of USC Annenberg Media:

“The councilmember believes life begins at conception and that abortion is the termination of a life, views that more commonly align with those who are pro-life. Horvath also believes the world is a better place when women have safe and legal access to abortion. She said in an interview she does not want to live in a world where abortion is illegal and only available to the rich, while the poor are left to go about the procedure in unsafe ways.”

This is an unconventional stance on abortion for a Democrat these days, especially for one elected to the City Council of one of Southern California’s most liberal burgs. West Hollywood declared itself pro-choice 31 years ago—one of the first cities nationwide to make this symbolic move.

And such a position is especially unconventional for Horvath, whose own résumé includes stints as the founding president of the National Organization for Women’s Hollywood chapter and as a board member for Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, which provides financial aid for women seeking abortion care or emergency contraceptives.

Not for nothing, TV producer Charlie Ebersol, a close friend of Horvath’s since college, once described the pint-sized blonde politico with a powerful singing voice as “a paradox wrapped in an enigma in a very attractive package.”

Asked to comment on simultaneously holding that abortion is the termination of life but that a woman has a right to an abortion, Horvath tells LAMag, “These are not contradictory positions.” 

Horvath, who is the president of the National Women’s Political Caucus-L.A. Westside, which recruits, trains, and backs pro-choice women candidates for elected and appointed offices, compares herself on the matter to no less prominent pro-choice and Catholic elected officials than President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Just as our president, our speaker of the House, and countless other pro-choice Catholic elected officials throughout the country, I believe we must both do all we can to support and care for people who choose to become pregnant, as well as the children to whom they give birth,” Horvath said in a written statement, “and we must provide safe, affordable access to gender-affirming health care options for people who do not wish to be pregnant.”

As part of the blowback over their pro-choice views, both Biden and Pelosi have been denied Holy Communion by the Catholic Church. But neither has ever gone so far as to say—as Horvath has repeatedly from 2014 to 2020—that life begins at fertilization. Most pro-choice Democrats, including the current president and House speaker, espouse the belief that life begins at the age of “fetal viability.” This is when a human fetus is able to survive outside the uterus, generally considered to be around 24 weeks.

Horvath’s divergent view that life begins at conception is grounded more closely to the conservative Catholicism reminiscent of her fellow Notre Dame alumna, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who once signed her name to a two-page ad, placed in the South Bend Tribune, that defended “the right to life from fertilization to natural death.” This prompted comic Bill Maher to quip that Barrett was “not just a Catholic, she’s a Mel Gibson’s dad Catholic.” 

Horvath has described attending “right to life mass,” the Catholic ceremony for the legal protection of unborn children, as a child, which instilled in her the belief that abortion was alike to “murdering babies.” However, she later told an interviewer with Cal State Fullerton in 2014 how she came to identify herself as pro-choice when she moved to California after college—despite holding fast to values that are pro-life.

“I think I started to understand that the people who were most pro-life were the people who were willing to provide people with options, that that was the most life-giving thing, and that restricting access to resources doesn’t help people get to the value that I would hope that they might share someday, which is having access to resources but then not choosing them,” she told the researcher as part of a feminist oral history project. “It’s different than being denied access.”

Horvath self-consciously added, “I know that that’s sort of convoluted.”

Still, the leading advocates for reproductive freedom in L.A. are backing Horvath’s bid to represent the roughly 2 million residents on the city’s West Side—a district stretching from Santa Monica and Malibu to the north San Fernando Valley suburbs

Horvath is the only candidate in the race endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of L.A. County. 

“I’ve done more in my career and lifetime to support reproductive freedom and access than my opponent ever has,” she says. 

Horvath finished second to the top vote-getter in the June primary, Democratic California State Senator and majority leader emeritus of the State Senate Bob Hertzberg.

Asked if she thinks her view on abortion is going to affect her election chances, Horvath tells LAMag, “All of the people and organizations committed to fighting against the repugnant, unjust decision of the Supreme Court to repeal Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v Casey, and potentially the right to privacy overall, stand with me because I stand firmly and proudly with them.” 

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