(WASHINGTON) — The campaign of Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., on Friday walked back the congressman’s assertion at a debate that medical developments have made it unnecessary for abortion laws to make an exception to protect the life of the mother.
During a debate with Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth on Thursday, Walsh had declared that he was “pro-life without exception,” and said that due to medical advancements, there were no instances in which abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother.
Walsh clarified those comments in a long written statement to the news media Friday afternoon.
“Let me very clear [sic] that when I say I am pro-life, I mean that I am pro-life for the mother and I am pro-life for the unborn child. For me, there is no distinction between the two,” Walsh said.
But Walsh said he supports a woman’s right to have an abortion in the “very rare” case where “both mother and baby will die if the baby is not aborted.”
As he went on, Walsh seemed to contradict himself.
“While, I do not support abortion, I do of course support medical procedures for women during their pregnancies that might result in the loss of the unborn child. When such an occurrence takes place, that decision on whether to perform that procedure is a very difficult one and one that should be left up to the mother and her family,” Walsh wrote.
An abortion is generally considered to be a medical procedure that results in the loss of the unborn child.
Duckworth explained her own views on abortion in a statement put out by her campaign Friday.
“I fully support a woman’s right to control her own body,” Duckworth wrote. “I do not support any further restrictions beyond the framework established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey on a woman’s right to choose or her access to safe, affordable reproductive health services. I trust that women will make the right decisions for themselves and their families in consultation with their own medical and religious advisers. I believe that all Americans are afforded a right to privacy and the right to make personal decisions about their health care without coercion.”
Walsh sought to divert attention to Duckworth for comments she made over the summer about sexual assault in the military. Duckworth is the first female double amputee Iraqi war veteran.
“When asked earlier this summer about sexual abuse in the military and her personal experience with it, My opponents [sic] response was, and I quote, that I was never sexually assaulted because I was a pretty tough chick, and not some weak 18 year old who couldn’t push back. As a father of two daughters, I found those comments every bit as offensive as Congressman Akin’s offensive comments on rape,” Walsh wrote. “Ms Duckworth’s [sic] comments could not be more offensive and yet they were not covered. How dare Ms. Duckworth imply that women are only raped because they are too weak to fight back, and if only they were just a little tougher rape would not occur? How dare she say that?”
The remarks Walsh referred to come from an interview Duckworth did with BuzzFeed’s Anna North, posted July 19. Here is that portion of the interview:
The documentary The Invisible War has a lot of people talking about sexual assault in the military. What’s your take on this issue?
TD: It is absolutely unacceptable that there is sexual assault in the military. We should remember it occurs not just with female service members but with males as well. It’s unacceptable and we need more oversight. I think the military is trying hard, but until you have more female high-ranking officers, you’re going to have some issues. I never experienced sexual assault, but I was a pretty tough chick officer, and if anything I was there for lower enlisted females to come to. I wasn’t a scared 18 year old who couldn’t push back. A lot of this stuff is about power. It’s power relationships. The military needs to redouble its efforts, and there should be congressional oversight. And women need to become a bigger percentage of the military — I think as we do, things will get better.
Did other women ever come to you to report assault?
TD: I was usually the only woman in an all-male unit, but sometimes we would get women reporting issues of discrimination. But usually I was the only woman so it didn’t happen that much.
The rest of Walsh’s statement can be found here.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio