Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) is clarifying his earlier statement that modern technology has surpassed any need for a legal exception to allow abortions to save the life of a woman — and he’s raising the stakes, by accusing his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth of blaming victims of sexual assault in the military.
Walsh has previously criticized Duckworth, who lost both of her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, for talking about her military service — saying that “true heroes” don’t talk about it. At a debate last week, he also attacked her by holding up a photo of her picking out a dress for her speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Late Friday afternoon, Walsh released a statement to partially walk back his comment on abortion, conceding that there are such cases where both a woman and fetus are at grave risk. “In those very rare cases where a mother’s life may be in danger past the point of viability for the baby, today’s doctors work to induce labor or perform a caesarean section in an attempt to save BOTH lives,” Walsh said. “These cases are extremely rare, and they unfortunately are used by the militant pro-choice movement to justify every single abortion.”
But Walsh goes further, counter-accusing Duckworth of ridiculing and blaming victims of sexual assault.
Let’s also not forget my opponent’s comments on sexual abuse. When asked earlier this summer about sexual abuse in the military and her personal experience with it, My opponents 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. Ms Duckworth’s 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?
He also followed it up with a tweet.
In the statement, Walsh links to an excerpt of an interview that Duckworth conducted with BuzzFeed three months ago, including this entire quote that in fact provides a full context:
Q: The documentary The Invisible War has a lot of people talking about sexual assault in the military. What’s your take on this issue?
Duckworth: 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.
“Last night, Congressman Walsh gave Illinois families a front-row seat to his offensive, ignorant, and above all, dangerous views of women’s health care,” Duckworth campaign m Kaitlin Fahey told TPM. “Today, 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. Tammy stands with Illinois families and will fight to defend women’s health care.”
Evan McMorris-Santoro contributed to this report.