Todd Akin booster and Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh may have been channeling the Missouri congressman when he said Thursday night that an abortion could never save a pregnant woman’s life.
Asked whether a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if her “life is at issue,” the Tea Party Republican said, “There is no such exception. With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.” The remark came after Walsh and his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, had concluded a televised debate on health care, jobs, and the economy. “This is an issue that opponents of life throw out there to make us look unreasonable,” added Walsh.
In August, Akin, a Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, set off a firestorm when he declared that “legitimate rape” does not result in pregnancy. But while Akin eventually apologized for his comments, Walsh on Friday allowed only that abortions may be needed to save a pregnant woman’s life in “very rare circumstances.”
“Outside of the very rare circumstances such as ectopic pregnancies, and other rare health issues, the research is pretty clear that with the advances in modern medicine, an invasive and traumatic procedure like an abortion is not necessary to save the life of a mother,” he said in a statement.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, on the other hand, said in a statement Friday that abortions “are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health.” HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are among the other conditions that can threaten an expectant mother’s life.
Duckworth said she wasn’t surprised to hear Walsh’s theory. “My email was blowing up this morning,” she told The Daily Beast. “I heard from women, old acquaintances, former co-workers who said, ‘This is what you’re up against?’”
Despite Walsh’s statement, the battle for the 8th District could still be a fight. While Democrats directed a recent Illinois congressional redistricting, the outcome of many races in the state is unclear, and “drawing the new districts proved far easier than executing a plan to actually win them,” wrote James Warren in The Daily Beast. A recent poll by a group that supports Duckworth shows her 15 points ahead of Walsh (plus or minus 4.9 percentage points), but a recent Republican poll puts Walsh ahead by one point.
Duckworth said the campaign is “pushing hard” and that she is glad “constituents are getting a better look behind the curtain of who Joe Walsh is and what he stands for.” After her opponent’s post-debate remarks, which quickly went viral, she tweeted a fundraising appeal and her campaign emailed supporters, seeking to capitalize.
Media criticism is hardly new to Walsh, who made headlines for a super-PAC bailout and shouting over a livid Ashley Banfield on CNN after he disparaged the military service of Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who lost both her legs in combat.
Duckworth said her opponent has a history of condescending behavior. “He attacked me on my clothing choices,” she said. “In the first debate, he called me ‘dear’ and grabbed my arm and pulled it, and offered to pull me around the district. I don’t think he should be in a position to make decisions about women.”
Walsh and his staff did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.