As the media shakes off its collective hangover from the political nerd equivalent of a Toga Party, the headlines about Thursday night’s GOP debate have followed some predictable trajectories. Donald Trump was the big winner (unless you’re a butthurt Republican Party shill), and Carly Fiorina was the only candidate to grow legs and emerge from the oozing primordial swamp that was the so-called “Happy Hour Debate,” and John Kasich is just as viable a candidate as Jon Huntsman was in 2012.
Lost in all that hubbub was the fact that Thursday night’s record debate audience of 25 million heard Scott Walker say this:
KELLY: Governor Walker, you’ve consistently said that you want to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. You recently signed an abortion law in Wisconsin that does have an exception for the mother’s life, but you’re on the record as having objected to it. Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion, and with 83 percent of the American public in favor of a life exception, are you too out of the mainstream on this issue to win the general election?
WALKER: Well, I’m pro-life, I’ve always been pro-life, and I’ve got a position that I think is consistent with many Americans out there in that…
WALKER: …in that I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there, and I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven.
Now, I’m at least as engaged as most voters, I get all the Emily’s List emails, but this was the first I’d heard of any politician opposing an exception for the life of the mother, let alone a leading presidential contender. As Megyn Kelly pointed out, this is not a mainstream opinion, it is a disqualifying one. Even on its own terms, what Walker is saying is that protecting women at risk from pregnancy is a roll of the dice (“that can protect”), and he wants the law to place that bet for you, or your wife, or your daughter.
What’s truly shameful, though, is that while news organizations rigorously fact-check the ludicrous utterances of Donald Trump and others, I have yet to see anyone challenge Walker’s assertion that there is always another way (that you should be forced to take). Walker’s statement flows from a batshit rationale that ignores many of the medical circumstances that necessitate therapeutic abortions. For example, when the “alternative” to abortion is the mother dying and the baby dying:
Cecily Kellogg, 44, a writer who lives near Philadelphia, says that was the situation she faced when she was nearly six months pregnant with twin boys in 2004 and developed severe preeclampsia. One fetus had already died and “my liver had shut down, my kidneys had shut down and they were expecting me to start seizing at any minute,” she says. The doctors said they had to quickly dilate her cervix and perform an abortion to save her. “I fought it,” she says. “But they told me I would die — that it was either me and my son or just my son.”
Scott Walker believes that the law should have prevented doctors from saving that woman’s life, or any woman’s life, if her pregnancy threatens to or is certain to kill her. That Scott Walker believes this should disqualify him from any position of authority, and while the media is unconscionably giving him a pass on this, it should hurt him in the long term. Kasich and Bush can both appeal to moderate voters without killing women, which even some male Republicans might object to.