Abortion is murder…until there’s a Senate seat on the line, apparently.
Earlier this week, the Daily Beast published a report that Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker paid for an ex-girlfriend to get an abortion in 2009. Walker has denied the claim, though the ex-girlfriend produced to the outlet receipts and a get well card he’d signed.
Walker, like many Republicans, characterizes himself as a hard-liner on abortion. He wants to ban the procedure outright and has likened it to murder. He does not support abortion ban exceptions for pregnancies from incest or rape.
The right-wing reaction to the revelation has blown open a dynamic that those who track anti-abortion politics have long known to be true. The party is driven by and beholden to a small, fervent core of anti-abortion activists. And while other Republican stakeholders parrot that group’s language and behavior, for many, the position is more about political expediency than deeply held conviction. That notional religiously rooted belief has given right-wing actors cover to push for abortion restrictions that lead to widespread suffering for women — everything from stymying miscarriage care to forcing women to carry and give birth to babies that have no chance of survival.
But staring down the political reality of Walker’s five-alarm fire just five weeks before a must-win election has pushed some of those stakeholders into candor.
“I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles,” Dana Loesch, former NRA spokesperson and current right-wing radio host, said on her show. “I want control of the Senate.”
Ralph Reed, the famed conservative political consultant and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, also laid bare the political calculus in a tweet.
Dana Loesch: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.” pic.twitter.com/gp3jbG5P1B
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) October 4, 2022
“Attacking Herschel Walker w/ 13 yr old anonymous allegation won’t move voters upset by inflation, economy, gas prices & failed Biden policies Warnock voted w/ 96% of the time. Warnock tied to Biden, w/ 38% job approval in GA,” he wrote. “That matters more than politics of personal destruction.”
In a now deleted tweet, evangelical broadcaster Erick Erickson too brushed off the story as a youthful indiscretion.
“I thought we all knew this,” he tweeted. “Also, old news and people do change over time.”
It’s a pretty blasé response from people who profess to consider abortion akin to murdering a small child.
Some in the more professionally political realm are striking a similar chord.
“We are full speed ahead in Georgia,” said Steven Law, CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC devoted to winning a Republican Senate majority. “This election is about the future of the country — Herschel Walker will make things better, Raphael Warnock is making it worse. Anything else is a distraction.”
Or look at Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who said in a May press release after voting against (and mischaracterizing) a bill that would have restored abortion protections that: “We must make sure every child in this nation has an opportunity to succeed. That starts with protecting the unborn and the right to life, which the Democrats simply refuse to do.”
“Herschel Walker is running to get our country back on track,” he tweeted Tuesday. “He can take the attacks from those who want to stop him. Our country can’t take Joe Biden and unchecked Democrat policies for two more years.”
Much of the harms the Republican Party and its universe of supporters perpetuate in their anti-abortion stance are excused, both in the media and broader political landscape, by the idea that they earnestly believe that the procedure is taking an innocent life. But if they truly think that Walker had facilitated the murder of a child, it’s hard to see them brushing it off as an old story, or a negative that doesn’t outweigh the economic benefits of Republican leadership.
It’s a similar dynamic to when evangelical Christians remained committed to Donald Trump despite a personal life checkered by divorce, infidelity and, at one time, support for abortion access. They made the political calculation that he’d give them things that were worth the moral capitulation of supporting a man who has committed what they say they consider unforgivable sins.
Making such a trade is fine, and happens in the political sphere all the time. But it’s not a deeply held conviction if it can be so blithely traded away for political power.