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The National Right to Life Committee on Tuesday endorsed Republican U.S. Senate hopeful John James, following an endorsement by the group’s state affiliate in Michigan.

The national group did not endorse James’ opponent in the GOP primary, businessman Sandy Pensler of Grosse Pointe, even though Pensler’s campaign has said he is “strongly pro-life.”

“National Right to Life joined with our state affiliate, RTL of Michigan, in a sole endorsement for John James for U.S. Senate,” said Karen Cross, the group’s political director.

“We believe he is the strongest pro-life candidate who can best defeat pro-abortion Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.”

James welcomed the endorsement, saying he is the “only pro-life candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan.” Pensler’s campaign disputes that claim.

“Sandy Pensler is pro-life. He shares the exact same belief as President Reagan and President Trump that abortions should be illegal, except to save the life of the mother and in the horrible cases of rape or incest,” Pensler spokesman Tom Shields said.

“He believes Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and will only support judges who will uphold the Constitution as written.”

Shields also said Pensler would vote to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Critics of Pensler have pointed to a 25-year-old newspaper story describing him as a “pro-choice” Republican, highlighting his support for abortion rights when he ran for the U.S. House in Michigan’s 8th District.

Pensler’s Senate campaign has said his position on abortion “evolved as he had a family and kids,” and that he now supports overturning Roe – the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Pensler’s campaign website says: “I am pro-life. My wife and I think abortion is wrong.”

President Donald Trump, who previously supported abortion rights, changed his position when he ran for president in 2016, saying he had “evolved” and now opposes abortion.

Right to Life of Michigan Political Action Committee endorsed James last month saying he is the only candidate in the race who meets its criteria.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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