Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a top 2016 contender, has reiterated his support for a Wisconsin bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,
with no exceptions for rape or incest.
With 20-week abortion bans gaining momentum on Capitol Hill and in states nationwide, Walker’s office confirmed to the Daily Beast this week that the governor intends to sign the bill, which supporters expect will move quickly through Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled legislature. A joint state House and Senate committee hearing on the bill is scheduled next week.
The issue of rape exemptions nearly tanked a federal version of the bill in the U.S House of Representatives, when female Republicans objected to a provision that required assault victims report their rapes to the police if seeking an exemption. A compromise that broadened the exemption passed the House earlier this month. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also considering a presidential run, has promised to introduce a Senate version of the 20-week ban soon.
As he ramps up his presidential campaign, Walker has veered to the right on social issues, meeting with top evangelical leaders in Washington this past spring. Previously, he had taken a more moderate stance on abortion, while maintaining his opposition, calling the decision “agonizing” in a TV ad last fall and social conservative groups have accused Walker of wavering on social issues.
The 20-week ban — based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain that early into the pregnancy — is a popular issue among 2016 GOP candidates. According to the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, the major Republican contenders have pledged their support. Walker sent an open letter to the Susan B. Anthony List in March reiterating his opposition to abortion and promising to sign a 20-week abortion ban if it came to his desk.
Currently 11 states have 20-week bans in effect, according to the Guttmacher Institute, with West Virginia becoming the latest to enact their version this week. Wisconsin joins nine other states where the legislation has been introduced.
While the American public remains split on abortion, abortion opponents believe that 20-week bans are a winning issue politically, as a solid majority of Americans support the prohibition. Abortion rights supporters argue that such bans are unconstitutional, as they fall below the point of viability — commonly held to be 24 weeks — which has been protected by previous Supreme Court decisions. Last year, the Supreme Court let stand an appeals court decision to strike down Arizona’s version of a 20-week ban, while Idaho’s and Georgia’s bans remain blocked by courts.