U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and her rival, Bobby Schilling, are using the abortion issue in their fundraising appeals, with both seeking to stake middle ground.
Last month, Schilling, a Colona Republican, sent an email to supporters to mark the annual March for Life in Washington.
"I am a firm believer that life begins at conception and that our society has an obligation to protect the rights of the unborn," Schilling wrote. "Unfortunately, the rights of the unborn are completely ignored in this country."
He said "radical pro-abortion" groups such as Emily's List, a political action committee that backs pro-choice female candidates, are fighting to increase the number of abortions.
"Their agenda is designed to promote young teenager girls getting third-term abortions paid for by the taxpayers without the parents ever finding out. That's as radical as it gets, and my opponent has pledged to stand with them on each and every issue," Schilling said in his appeal.
He said EMILY's List has put him "on notice" because of his pro-life record.
"[T]hat's a badge I wear proudly! Sorry, Emily's List, but genocide isn't a right."
In response to Schilling's appeal, Bustos sent out one of her own. She wrote that Schilling accused abortion-rights advocates of supporting "genocide."
"Not only is Schilling's email downright offensive, it's insulting, it's crude, and it's just one more reason we can't let him win in November," she said.
In 2012, Bustos, an East Moline Democrat, beat Schilling, then a first-term-congressman, in the 17th District, which includes Whiteside County.
During that campaign, Bustos received $109,925 from Emily's List, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In an email, Schilling's spokesman, Jon Schweppe, said Schilling was talking about third-term abortion when he referred to "genocide."
"He believes in reasonable and common-sense restrictions [on abortion]," Schweppe said in an interview. "Does Cheri really support abortion in the ninth month? That's a fair question to ask a sitting congresswoman."
Schilling doesn't expect Roe vs. Wade to be overturned anytime soon, his spokesman said. If it were, the states would decide on whether to outlaw abortion, Schweppe said.
"Bobby would not want penalties for women," Schweppe said. "They should be for doctors and providers who are violating the law."
Schweppe said voters need to know Bustos' stands on parental notification laws, government subsidies for abortions, and late-term abortions.
When Sauk Valley Media asked for Bustos' positions on those issues, her spokesman, Colin Milligan, issued a general statement without answering the specific questions.
"Congresswoman Bustos regards this issue as a highly personal one and respects that not everyone shares the same views," the statement read. "She supports a woman's right to choose and believes this is a decision best made by women in consultation with their doctors, not by the government."
Schweppe said Bustos has to be "careful" not to differ with Emily's List on parental notification, government subsidies, and late-term abortions.
A spokesman for Emily's List didn't return a call for comment.