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Amid firestorm, Walsh appears to back off abortion stance

Congressman Joe Walsh with wife Helene held press conference Friday discuss his comments about his pro-life stance during after last

Congressman Joe Walsh, with wife Helene, held a press conference Friday to discuss his comments about his pro-life stance during and after last night's debate. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 21, 2012 6:09AM

Trying to quell a growing fire storm over remarks he made about modern technology and abortion — U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh said on Friday that he is “pro-life for the mother and the unborn child.”

Walsh seemed to back off a stance a day earlier that modern medical advances meant there were no instances when the life of the mother was at such risk during pregnancy that it necessitated an abortion.

“I want to make it clear that I am pro-life without exception. ... I’m pro-life for the mother, and I’m pro-life for the unborn child,”

Walsh said at a news conference called amid the growing controversy his remarks Thursday night had created. “For me, there is no distinction between the two.”

“When it comes to having an abortion to save the life of a mother, I will say outside of the very rare circumstances — such as ectopic pregnancies during which both the mother and baby will die if the baby is not aborted and other rare health issues and circumstances — the research is pretty clear that with the advances in modern medicine, an invasive and traumatic procedure like an abortion is often not necessary to save the life of the mother,” Walsh said. The added caveat of ectopic pregnancies and carefully worded exception was something Walsh did not say a night earlier when questioned on his stance.

It was a rare instance for Walsh, known to be an unapologetic flame-thrower, to back off remarks. He called a news conference as a tsunami of reaction was building Friday morning on social media and elsewhere. With less than 20 days before the Nov. 6 election, Walsh is attempting to cling to his congressional seat that is now in a redrawn, Democratic north and northwest suburban district.

The controversy arose in comments Walsh made after his final debate with his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth.

During the 8th Congressional debate Thursday night televised by WTTW, Duckworth accused Walsh of preferring to a let a woman die rather than allow abortion in some instances.

Walsh shot back that her comment wasn’t fair.

After the debate, Walsh said these days, abortion was never necessary to save the life of the mother.

“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” where a woman’s life was in danger to the point that an abortion was necessary, Walsh said. “There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

The Twittersphere lit up Friday morning with people likening Walsh to Missouri U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who used the phrase “legitimate rape,” then controversially explained that women who are raped cannot get pregnant because the body naturally rejects it from happening. Walsh denounced Akin on Friday and said he did not support Akin’s remarks. In one Tweet to Walsh, the writer sent him an app that opened up a Google search and typed in the phrase “ectopic pregnancy, a condition in which the fertilized egg attaches itself outside a woman’s uterus, typically the fallopian tubes.

“An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue might destroy various maternal structures. Left untreated, life-threatening blood loss is possible.”

On Friday, Walsh, with his wife standing by his side, qualified his position as he read a statement at a news conference. Afterward, he took no questions.

Before leaving though, he lit into his opponent — as well as the media — for ignoring the real issues going on in the district.

“For Ms. Duckworth to say that I support letting a mother die as she did last night, is the most disgusting form of politics,” Walsh said. “That statement could not be further from the truth. That is a desperate quote from a desperate candidate.”

He held his news conference in an empty warehouse in Elk Grove Village, he said, to show how the 8th Congressional District was economically struggling. Walsh said he was pro-life through and through and criticized his opponent for being too extreme in the other direction.

“Ms. Duckworth has an extreme, pro-abortion with no restrictions stance,” he said. He called her a “pro-abortion zealot, who actually believes that taxpayers, regardless of their position on abortion should fund all abortions.”

Duckworth called Walsh’s position “not acceptable,” for the district, which was just redrawn to favor Democrats. Duckworth said she does hold a pro-choice stance without restrictions, including allowing teens to have abortions without parental consent.

“When a woman is in a situation when she has to consider an abortion, this is a terrible thing,” Duckworth said. “It’s a horrible thing for any family to have to go through. So we should at that time not say to a woman whose life is in danger that we’re going to take this tool away from your physician that they cannot treat you. It’s simply not acceptable and it’s simply not where this district is.”

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