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Abortion front and center in final Walsh-Duckworth debate

US 8th Congressional District candidates Joe Walsh-R Tammy Duckworth-D prepare for their debate Thursday October 18 2012 WTTW studios Chicago

US 8th Congressional District candidates Joe Walsh-R and Tammy Duckworth-D prepare for their debate Thursday October 18, 2012 at the WTTW studios in Chicago . | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 20, 2012 11:20AM



It’s perhaps the most closely watched congressional race in the nation, and Democrat Tammy Duckworth and Republican Joe Walsh didn’t disappoint TV viewers Thursday night — serving up a heated exchange over the hot-button issue of abortion.

Duckworth charged that Walsh “would let a woman die,” rather than allow her to have an abortion.

“That’s not fair,” an obviously angry Walsh protested.

The incumbent Republican countered that Duckworth was out of step, favoring taxpayer-funded abortions.

“I’m pro-choice without restrictions,” Duckworth said.

The two 8th Congressional District rivals tangled on a variety of issues in a debate televised on WTTW-Channel 11 — the last public battle between the two in a high-profile race that could help determine the balance of Congress. SuperPACS are pouring millions into TV ads in the north and northwest suburban contest.

The abortion exchange was sparked by a question about an ad hitting the incumbent congressman hard on the issue.

Walsh described himself as ‘Pro-life without exception.”

He said he did not believe in an exception for rape and incest because — “there’s still a life there.” He then added: “the life of the woman is not an exception.” Walsh nicked Duckworth for having the complete opposite view.

“[Duckworth] actually supports tax-payer funding of abortions,” Walsh said.

Duckworth went full steam ahead at her response.

“I’m pro-choice without restriction, and here though, Mr. Walsh … what he said — not for rape, incest or life of the mother — he would let a woman die rather than give her, than to give the doctor the option to save her life.”

Walsh interrupted her, all the while saying: “That’s not fair.”

After the debate, Walsh later explained his remark that the life of the woman is not an exception, saying that medically today, the health of the mother is not a reason for an abortion.

The debate would be the last between the two before the Nov. 6 election. It featured a more sedate Walsh, a cable-TV mainstay who is known for throwing fireballs. Duckworth, a wounded Iraq War veteran, meanwhile, was more aggressive than usual, going after Walsh on several points.

At one point, citing a newspaper write-up, Duckworth called Walsh a “hyper partisan mega mouth.”

The two faced some tough questions including what Walsh, a Tea Party candidate, thought of a characterization that he was “rude” or “confrontational.” Walsh was asked if he regretted the way he’s conducted himself.

“No, there are times when I’ve gotten ahead of myself,” he said, adding that when he does he quickly tries to correct that. He called himself “an odd-duck in that I’m not driven by my re-election.” He said he is a politician but doesn’t carefully measure every word. “I think we’re all sick of politicians who poll-test every single word that comes out of their mouths.”

Duckworth was asked if she felt she over played her military service or her wounds as she campaigns for the congressional seat. Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat, said that it was Walsh who planted that idea and that she was overly proud of her military service.

“I’ve never called myself a hero,” she said.



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