After coming under fire for suggesting that scientific advancements have made abortions to save a mother's life unnecessary, Congressman Joe Walsh Friday continued to describe himself as "pro-life without exception" but also said he would support some medical procedures for pregnant women even if they result in the loss of the baby.
The McHenry Tea Partyer made the comments at a 2:30 p.m. news conference in Elk Grove Village, his wife Helene by his side. He arrived at the vacant factory warehouse by truck, and left without taking questions from the press.
"Outside of the very rare circumstances such as ectopic pregnancies and other rare health issues and circumstances, the research is pretty clear," Walsh said. "With the advances in modern medicine, an abortion is often not necessary to save the life of the mother."
Walsh described himself as "pro-life for the mother, and pro-life for the unborn child," noting that "for me, there is no distinction between the two."
Doctors, he said, could "work to induce labor or perform a caesarean section to save both lives" if the baby's viability and the mother's life were in danger.
He also said he "does support medical procedures for women during their pregnancies that might result in the loss of an unborn child."
When such occurrences take place, Walsh said, "that decision ... should be left up to the mother and her family."
Following the news conference, Walsh released several statements from doctors describing abortion as rarely medically necessary in various hearings and in studies conducted from 1967 to 2002.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, released a statement Friday that "abortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health."
Walsh's opposition to abortion in all cases -- including rape, incest and the life of the mother -- has drawn criticism from his 8th District Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth, even during the March primary, and has been featured in a number of her ads and mailers.
But the issue took on new life in the early hours of Friday morning -- following comments by Walsh that scientific advances meant abortion was not necessary to save the life of a mother. He made the remarks during a Thursday media availability after the fourth and final debate for candidates in the 8th District at WTTW-11's Chicago studios.
In a statement Friday, Duckworth called it "essential that we condemn Congressman Walsh's remarks and continue to work toward empowering women to be able to make their own choices about their bodies."
CREDO, a San Fransisco-based SuperPAC opposing Walsh, is among others drawing similarities between Walsh and Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, whose August comment that "if it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down," garnered national attention.
Walsh has called Akin's comments "offensive, insulting and wrong" but criticized the "rush to pile on" the candidate.
Friday, he again distanced himself from the Senate candidate, instead imploring reporters to ask Duckworth, "as you've asked Mr. Akin, about her offensive comments about rape." Walsh is referring to a July interview where Duckworth described herself as "a pretty tough chick officer ...(not) a scared 18 year old who couldn't push back."
Duckworth's campaign responded with a shot against Walsh.
"The only responsible course of action for Congressman Walsh would have been to issue a genuine apology and sign up for a remedial biology class," campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said, adding "Tammy stands with Illinois families and will fight to defend women's health care."
Walsh said he plans to spend the remaining 19 days of the election cycle talking about jobs and the economy, and "the empty warehouses and storefronts littered across the 8th district."
Womens issues have landed Walsh in hot water several times in the last six months. At a campaign event in early September, Walsh criticized Georgetown student and women's rights activist Sandra Fluke, who has found herself in the center of the arena regarding contraception coverage.
"Think about this, a 31-, 32-year-old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in front of a national audience and tells the American people, 'I want America to pay for my contraceptives.' You're kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job, Sandra Fluke," Walsh said.
Walsh has said those comments have been taken out of context. He went on, at the event, to explain that "we've got Americans who are struggling. And we have to be confronted by a woman who is complaining ... the country won't pay the $9 a month for her contraception."
In February, as male church leaders objected before a congressional committee to a federal requirement mandating contraceptives be accessible to employees, with several women walking out of the meeting, Walsh quipped "this is not about women. This is not about contraceptives. This is about religious freedom. ... We could be talking about a Muslim hospital that doesn't want to serve a particular food in their cafeteria because of their deep-seated views of their religious beliefs." As the first half of the comment landed on Duckworth mailers, Walsh also said it was taken out of context.
Walsh and Duckworth are sharply divided on issues ranging from government spending to taxes and immigration. All the same, Duckworth has focused on women as a key voting group. In a television ad currently running in heavy rotation on local channels, Duckworth cuts at Walsh's views on abortion, calling them "too extreme without exception."
The 8th Congressional District includes portions of Kane, Cook and DuPage counties, and stretches from Villa Park through Schaumburg to Barrington Hills.