On Monday, Scott Walker faced the wrath of anti-abortion activists irked by his ambivalent comments about the issue on Fox News Sunday, where he told host Chris Wallace that while he's personally pro-life, "the guidelines that were provided from the Supreme Court" dictated that abortion is ultimately a woman's choice. “Coming out of a good CPAC appearance, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker just gave what I can safely call the very worst interview on the life issue I have seen from a Republican in recent memory," the American Principles Project's Frank Cannon declared. Pro-life activist Gerard Bradley called Walker's remarks "tragic."
On Tuesday, Walker sought to assuage social conservative doubts with a conveniently-timed endorsement of a 20-week abortion ban, one of the top priorities of the anti-abortion movement.
"Life is a value I learned from my parents, and it’s a value I have cherished every day, predating my time in politics. My policies throughout my career have earned a 100% rating with pro-life groups in Wisconsin," Walker wrote in an open letter. "Just in my first term I signed numerous pieces of pro-life legislation and I will continue working for every life."
Walker went on to write that he expected Wisconsin lawmakers to send him a 20-week ban in the coming legislative session, and he vowed to sign it. He also backed a federal version of the ban, which the congressional GOP jettisoned earlier this year after Republican women rebelled over language that banned abortions for rape victims who did not report their assaults to the police.
In his statement Monday, Cannon needled Walker on the 20-week issue, pointedly noting that even Jeb Bush, the ostensible moderate in the GOP presidential field, backed a ban.
“What about advocating for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks?" Cannon asked. "That’s a law that has already been passed in 12 states, which the Republican National Committee endorses, and which most of his fellow presumptive Republican presidential candidates also support, Jeb Bush included.”
Undoubtedly cognizant that he risked bleeding support among social conservatives if he did not stake out a firm position, Walker dutifully joined Bush and his fellow Republicans on Tuesday.
Of course, Walker's announcement today hardly ensures that he won't face problems on his right flank. While he's on the record opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest and has signed legislation mandating ultrasounds and defunding Planned Parenthood, Walker also appropriated pro-choice rhetoric during his 2014 re-election campaign against a pro-choice Democratic woman, running a campaign ad in which he looked directly into the camera and told voters that legislation he signed still "leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor." As my colleague Joan Walsh wrote today, the ad is sure to provide fodder for Walker's GOP rivals -- particularly in Iowa, where caucus-goers are overwhelmingly socially conservative and where a loss by the Wisconsin governor could deal a devastating blow to his White House bid.