Herschel Walker’s claims keep abortion in the spotlight during the midterms

Bombshell allegations about Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, have drawn renewed attention to the abortion debate, which Democrats hope will boost voter turnout among their supporters, even though polls suggest it may be lower than two years ago.

Walker, who has campaigned against abortion rights, has denied reports that he paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion and later offered to pay for her to have another.

The mother of one of Walker’s children has said he ended a relationship with her in 2011 after she refused to get an abortion, which she had two years earlier, according to a report in the New York Times on Friday. The Times report said she was the same woman who previously told the Daily Beast that Walker paid for the abortion for her first pregnancy with him.

The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her and her child’s privacy, told The Washington Post in a brief interview Saturday that those reports accurately described her experiences. The Post also reviewed a copy of a $700 check the woman said Walker wrote to reimburse her for the cost of the abortion. The check did not contain a memo line with a stated purpose. It was deposited days after the date the woman said she had the abortion.

The race could decide which party controls the Senate, where Democrats are working to highlight the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade to draw voters in favor of abortion rights.

The Republicans, for their part, are trying to move the electorate attention to other issues, such as crime and the economy, amid daily headlines about Walker’s personal conduct, which has included threats of domestic violence, fathering children out of wedlock and inaccurate descriptions of his business record.

Although some Republicans have expressed concern about Walker’s “baggage,” many in the GOP have doubled down on supporting the troubled candidate. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) plan to rally in Georgia for Walker on Tuesday, The Washington Post first reported.

And on Sunday defended Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who is facing a tough re-election for his House seat, Walker said “none of us are perfect.”

“Herschel needs to come clean and just be honest,” Bacon said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We also know we all make mistakes and it’s just better if this actually happened, say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness.”

Go. Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who is campaigning on an anti-abortion platform, has denied paying for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Meg Kinnard/AP/Reuters)

When “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker asked if Walker’s controversy undermined the Republican Party’s broader anti-abortion message, Bacon was cautious, returning to his belief that the race would not be decided by a candidate’s personal conduct.

“You want to talk and talk. You want consistency with your message,” he said. “But people make mistakes too. I’m certainly not a flawless person by any means. I’ve made my own mistakes in life. And that so does Herschel.”

Bacon’s remarks are in line with a GOP memo released last month that offered talking points for Republican candidates seeking to position themselves effectively for the fall general election. The GOP acknowledged in the memo that the vast majority of voters disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn Roe v. Wadewhich for almost 50 years provided a constitutional right to abortion.

In the memo, which was first reported by the Hill, Republicans were encouraged to “draw a contrast” between their position on abortion — which the memo describes as containing exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother — against “a Democrat who supports abortion at at any time for any reason.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) these arguments. She also defended a Michigan ballot initiative that would enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution “up to the point of viability.”

“And then afterward, it has to be because of the mother’s health, which is evaluated by a doctor,” Slotkin said. “So it’s not abortion on demand, it’s not through the ninth month, all these talking points that the Republicans are using because they know they’re on their heels on this issue. So I support that ballot measure.”

Slotkin also called out the hypocrisy of Republicans, noting that they have called for pardoning Walker even though he has admitted no wrongdoing.

“I think what Mr. Walker himself is doing is enough for the voters to see, right? He’s being accused of something, he’s not admitting it, or he’s evasive,” Slotkin said.

Overall, the five-page GOP memo argues for shifting attention away from abortion and toward other issues such as inflation and the economy. But Republicans have had a hard time avoiding the topic of abortion as of late. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) last month introduced a bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in the battleground state of Arizona, declined to say whether she would pursue restrictions on abortions earlier than 15 weeks. Instead, she diverted the discussion to offering women help “keeping their baby” or help making an adoption plan.

“I want to give women real choice,” Lake said.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for governor, dismissed as “ridiculous” Lake’s claim that late-term abortions were performed solely at the discretion of the patient.

Abortion is a topic that belongs “between a woman and her doctor,” Hobbs added. “The government and the politicians do not belong in that decision.”

Midterm elections typically favor the party not in power, but the Supreme Court’s ruling in June has Democrats reversing that trend by emphasizing their goal of codifying abortion rights into law. Planned Parenthood recently announced plans to spend a record $50 million to elect abortion rights supporters across the country in November, believing the focus will be a net positive for Democratic candidates.

Arizona is one of several Republican-controlled states pointing to a century-old law as justification for rolling back access to abortions. (Video: Julie Yoon, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

However, some Democratic groups have expressed concern that they have not seen the same level of fundraising and voter enthusiasm as they did in 2020.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor who is trailing in the polls against Gov. Brian Kemp (R), said Sunday that reports of faltering support among black voters were a “manufactured crisis designed to suppress turnout.”

“If you look at my poll numbers and the poll numbers of my ticket mate, [Georgia Democratic] Late. Raphael G. Warnock, we vote just as well with black voters. But we know that black voters, like all voting populations, deserve the respect of having someone come and talk to them, engage them,” Abrams said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“But it is always an opportunity to get involved. I don’t take any voting block for granted,” she added.

Abrams also noted that black women in Georgia are the most likely to die from maternal mortality because they are denied access to health care before they become pregnant.

“We know that in Brian Kemp’s Georgia, a black woman is faced with a deadly choice, and it’s either to have a crystal ball and know she’s pregnant before she actually knows, or to face forced pregnancy with very little support,” she said. “In the state of Georgia, Brian Kemp has said that Herschel Walker is entitled to his personal choices, but no woman is. And that is unconscionable.”

Annie Linskey contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment