During a heated debate with Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth Thursday, Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said advances in medicine made it so there are no longer cases when an abortion would be necessary to save the life of a mother.
Walsh, running against Duckworth for the House of Representatives in Illinois’ 8th District, opposes any exceptions to abortion restrictions, including one to protect the health or life of the mother.
A video of the debate’s highlights from Chicago radio station WGN shows candidates Walsh and Duckworth sparring over abortion and other issues. Walsh said he was “pro-life without exception.”
Duckworth accused Walsh of preferring to let a woman die than allow her to receive an abortion, to which he replied, “That’s not fair.”
“There’s no such exception as life of the mother,” Walsh told reporters following the debate. “And as far as health of the mother – same thing. Advances in science and technology. Health of the mother has been, has become a tool for abortions any time and for any reason.”
The congressman’s office and campaign were not immediately available for comment.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said remarks like Walsh’s are one of their reasons they feel politicians need to “get out of our exam rooms.”
“Contrary to the inaccurate statements made yesterday by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), abortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health,” the College wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions. Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related reasons right here in the US. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives.”
Erika West, deputy political director NARAL Pro-Choice America, called Walsh’s comments “outrageous.”
“His remarks do not represent the position of voters in Illinois’ 8th congressional district and his views have no place in Congress,” West wrote in a statement to ABC News.
Earlier this year Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin caused a stir when he said a woman could not become pregnant from “legitimate rape.” Akin later apologized for those remarks.
Update 4:26 p.m.:
In response to Walsh’s comments, the National Right to Life Committee said in a statement that it supports allowing “abortion if it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.”