Dueling TV ads take on Scott Walker's position on abortion

Gov. Scott Walker's position on abortion and a law he signed that restricts it are the subject of dueling TV ads in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election.
Gov. Scott Walker's position on abortion and a law he signed that restricts it are the subject of dueling TV ads in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election.

A group supporting abortion rights injected abortion into the Wisconsin governor’s race Oct. 6, 2014, less than a month before election day. And Gov. Scott Walker responded the same day with a television ad of his own.

By reviewing past fact-checks and articles we’ve done, we will try flesh out two central points made in both ads: Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s position on abortion and a law he signed that requires women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound.

So far, the position of Walker’s challenger, Democrat Mary Burke, who supports abortion rights, has not received wide attention.

EMILY’s List ad

EMILY’s List, the national political action committee that raises money to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights to office, said it released its ad, called "Illegal," to highlight Walker’s "extreme agenda against Wisconsin women."

In endorsing Burke more than one year ahead of the Nov. 4, 2014 election, the Washington, D.C.-based group praised a number of her credentials, but did not mention her abortion-rights stance.

In the ad, a woman identified as a Wisconsin nurse practitioner named Meg looks into the camera and says:

I don’t like anybody getting between me and my patients. So I was outraged when I found out Scott Walker quietly signed a law trying to restrict doctors from performing abortions. Scott Walker wants to make all abortions illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. Look, this is one of the toughest decisions a woman has to make. It’s not up to politicians like Scott Walker. Scott Walker needs to get out of my patients’ private lives, out of my examining room and just leave women alone.

Walker’s ad

Saying "special interests from Washington, D.C., are spending millions of dollars to distract voters" from his "positive record," Walker’s campaign quickly responded by releasing an ad dubbed "Decision."   

Walker speaks into the camera, saying:

Hi, I’m Scott Walker. I’m pro-life. But there’s no doubt in my mind the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor. Now, reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsin citizens.

Here are some of the takeaways from the two ads.

Walker’s position on abortion

One of the statements in the EMILY’s List ad is nearly the same as a claim made in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was Walker’s Democratic opponent. Barrett said Walker "wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother."

We rated that claim True.

Walker had said repeatedly he opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and he confirmed during that campaign that the claim accurately stated his position.

In the current campaign, Walker says he "believes in the sanctity of all human life – from conception to natural death. I am 100% pro-life."

The legislation

Both ads allude to a bill that Walker signed into law in a private ceremony July 5, 2013. Besides requiring women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds, the law requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges, although that provision has been halted while a Planned Parenthood lawsuit against it is pending.

The measure drew passionate reactions, as we noted in an In Context article:

State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said abortion "became popular in the '60s and it was almost the thing to do. You needed to get one of them to be a woman." And Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said: "Let’s trust women to make choices for themselves, and for the love of Wisconsin, let’s stay out of their vaginas."

We also did two related fact-checks:

 

  • Democrat Peter Barca, the state Assembly minority leader, said that "even if you're raped, if you don't report it in the first 30 days, the Republicans will force you to have an ultrasound." We rated his claim Half True. The law does require an ultrasound when such victims do not report the assault to law enforcers, but there is no 30-day deadline for doing so.

 

  • Pundit Rachel Campos-Duffy, the wife of U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said "upwards of 90 percent" of women seeking an abortion decide not to have an abortion after seeing an ultrasound. Our rating was False. One anti-abortion organization claimed a figure of nearly 90 percent for its ultrasound program among a certain group of women, but there was no solid evidence to back Campos-Duffy’s sweeping claim.

 

Burke has not emphasized her position on abortion and it has not garnered wide attention.

But besides the EMILY’s List endorsement, NARAL-Pro-Choice America announced in late September 2014 that Walker is one of three governors it is targeting with mailings, online ads and phone calls.

In an online campaign piece, Burke said Walker "has restricted women’s health care access, right to choose and insurance access." On her campaign website, she says she "supports a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions in consultation with her doctor and in accordance with her faith."