KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congressman’s Comments On Abortion Set Off Dispute With Medical Experts

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said after a debate Thursday that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. Women's groups and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists quickly blasted his comments.

The Chicago Tribune: Walsh Abortion Comments Ignite Firestorm
The focus of a fierce suburban congressional battle turned from the economy to abortion literally overnight following Republican Rep. Joe Walsh's controversial declaration that there's no medical necessity to use the procedure to save a woman's life. "With modern technology and science, you can't find one instance," Walsh declared in comments to reporters after a televised debate Thursday night against Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the northwest suburban 8th District race. By Friday those comments had created a firestorm, and tea party icon Walsh was in damage-control mode (Secter and Shelton, 10/19).

The Hill: Rep. Joe Walsh Edges Away From Controversial Remark About Abortion
On Friday, at a press conference, Walsh moderated his previous comment when he said abortions are "often" not necessary to save women. "When it comes to having an abortion to save the life of the mother, I will say again that 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 abortion is often, thankfully, not necessary to save the life of a mother," Walsh said (Viebeck, 10/19).

Los Angeles Times: Doctors Dispute 'Inaccurate' Abortion Claim From Rep. Joe Walsh
Walsh (R-Ill.), who is facing a tough race to retain his seat in Congress, told reporters Thursday that he was opposed to abortion under any circumstances — and that thanks to medical progress, "you can’t find one instance" when it might be necessary to perform an abortion to protect a woman's health. ... Within hours, women’s heath advocates — and physicians — attacked his remarks (Brown, 10/19).

Bloomberg Businessweek: House Republican Says Abortion Not Needed to Save Lives 
“There’s no such exception as life of the mother,” Walsh said to reporters after a debate yesterday. “And as far as health of the mother, same thing, with advances in science and technology. Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time, under any reason.” Walsh, who was supported in his 2010 victory by the anti- tax Tea Party movement, faces Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth ... He’s defending his House seat representing Illinois’ 8th District, which includes suburbs of Chicago (Tiron and Deprez, 10/19).

Politico: Jackie Speier, Lawmaker Who Needed Abortion, Rips Joe Walsh
Rep. Joe Walsh’s claim that abortions are never necessary to save the life of the mother “showed absolute ignorance about science and medicine,” according to a California Democrat who once spoke of her own needed abortion on the House floor. Rep. Jackie Speier, who appeared on the House floor in 2011 to talk about an abortion she needed to save her life, told POLITICO on Friday that Walsh didn’t understand “how painful it is on a physiological and emotional level” to have a second-trimester abortion. ... "I don’t know what these Republican congressmen drink that make them experts on women’s reproductive health,” Speier said (Robillard, 10/20).

ABC News: Rep. Walsh Says No Need for Abortion to Save Mother’s Life
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said remarks like Walsh’s are one of their reasons they feel politicians need to “get out of our exam rooms. Contrary to the inaccurate statements made yesterday by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), abortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health," the College wrote in a statement (Parnass, 10/19).

Politico: Medical Experts Say Abortions Still Needed Despite Advances
"Unfortunately, pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions. Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related reasons right here in the US. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives," [ACOG wrote] (Haberkorn, 10/19).

Roll Call: NRCC Has No Plans to Dump Joe Walsh
The National Republican Congressional Committee has no plans to cancel an ad reservation supporting Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.), despite remarks made Thursday night that pregnancy never threatens the health or life of a woman. ... A spokeswoman for the NRCC, which has committed more than $450,000 for cable ads in the Chicagoland area, said the group will not cancel its buy through the election (Shiner, 10/19).

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