Herschel Walker is a ridiculous person — but his ex is a typical abortion patient

Republicans have slurred Walker's ex as a "skank," but her story is a lot like any single mom trying to get by

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published October 6, 2022 1:00PM (EDT)

Herschel Walker during his Unite Georgia Bus Stop rally at the Global Mall in Norcross, Ga on Friday September 9, 2022. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Herschel Walker during his Unite Georgia Bus Stop rally at the Global Mall in Norcross, Ga on Friday September 9, 2022. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

No one has accused former NFL player Herschel Walker — Donald Trump's hand-picked GOP Senate nominee in Georgia — of being a nimble candidate or running a strong campaign. But even by Walker's standards, it was a major fumble to claim he didn't know a woman whose abortion he allegedly paid for in 2009. That's because, as Roger Sollenberger of the Daily Beast (and formerly of Salon) reported in a follow-up to his original story on the abortion scandal, the woman in question is also the mother of one of Walker's kids. 

On Wednesday, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Walker point blank if he knew who the woman was. As is evidently his habit, Walker dissembled, while throwing in some incomprehensible commentary. "Not at all," he said, adding that "everyone is anonymous" and "they want you to confess to something you have no clue about."

This is implausible at best, considering that the woman in question held onto a copy of a $700 check signed by Walker and a get-well card he sent her, apparently after the abortion procedure. But with the revelation that this woman is also the mother of one of Walker's children, the idea that he has no idea who she is becomes grossly insulting. Of course, as Sollenberger pointed out, Politico has also reported an "abortion allegation [that] was circulating among Republicans" that "doesn't quite track" with the one he reported on. So it's entirely possible that Walker hoped or believed this was a different woman, and not the one it's extremely difficult to distance himself from. 

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Walker's scandal-a-minute campaign is a wild ride, even in an election cycle that features another celebrity GOP candidate who is accused of torturing and murdering puppies. So it's all the more remarkable that his ex-girlfriend's story is so, well, ordinary and normal. While her identity has not been revealed to protect her safety, the details we know suggest that she sounds an awful lot like any random woman in any abortion clinic on any given day. It highlights the vast gulf between the ugly stereotypes Republicans perpetuate about women who get abortions and the everyday reality: Most are ordinary women, very often mothers, who are simply trying to get by with the cards life has dealt them. 

Republican reactions to the original Walker story played out along the standard sexist double standard: A man is instantly forgiven for just "spreading his seed," while the woman is degraded as " some skank." This woman's actual story, however, suggests a much different picture. She says dated Walker for many years and had a child with him. She told the Daily Beast that Walker "didn't accept responsibility for the kid we did have together," and won't "accept responsibility" now. Like so many other women in roughly similar circumstances, she was the one who managed these challenging decisions "about my future and a potential child's future."

This fits with everything that decades of research about abortion patients shows: They aren't "skanks," as right-wing commentator Dana Loesch has claimed. They are women who take responsibility for their lives and their families. Sometimes they have the support of the men who got them pregnant, but very often they're making this decision in large part because the men in their lives are evading responsibility. 

The Guttmacher Institute has the most robust and in-depth statistics on abortion patients, and Walker's ex fits right in. A majority of abortion patients (59%) are already mothers, and many others would like to have children in the future. When asked about their reasons for seeking an abortion, women offer answers that have remained relatively stable for decades. They are concerned about finishing school or keeping their job, or they say they can't afford to a baby right now. About half of them, like Walker's ex, don't have a stable relationship they feel comfortable about bringing a baby into. They say they are "not sure about the relationship" or are worried their relationship "may break up soon." 

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In the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, the decision used by the Trump-shaped Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, most media attention has focused on the most dramatic cases. There's been a steady drumbeat of horror stories: Miscarrying patients forced to wait until they develop infections before getting treatment. Women potentially losing their fertility because doctors can't treat ectopic pregnancies safely. Rape victims, some as young as 10, forced to travel long distances to get abortions. 

It's important not to lose sight of the ordinary humanity of typical abortion patients. Overall, it's a bunch of women whose stories are painfully mundane: Economic struggles and unreliable boyfriends.

These stories are important, of course, and need to be told. But it's equally important not to lose sight of the humanity of more typical abortion patients. And the truly remarkable thing about most abortion patients is how unremarkable they are. Most of are in their 20s. They are racially diverse: 39% are white, 28% Black, and 25% Hispanic. Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to get abortions. The most significant differentiating factor is that women seeking abortion are disproportionately likely to be low-income, likely because it's more difficult for them to get reliable contraception access. But overall, it's a bunch of people whose stories are almost painfully mundane: Economic struggles and unreliable boyfriends. At current rates, one in four American women will get an abortion in her lifetime. 

Clearly, many more people understand this than the media discourse typically acknowledges. That's why the public reaction to Dobbs has been overwhelmingly negative. But it's also true that most anti-choice activists understand how mundane abortion is, and generally avoid the Loesch-style political error of calling abortion patients "skanks." Their strategy for years now has been to embrace a benevolent sexism, portraying abortion patients as "lost" women who simply don't know any better. This allows them to reframe forced childbirth as a favor they're doing women, guiding them toward the "correct" choice.

But as Walker's ex told the Daily Beast, these "are real life decisions that can completely change your life." The Guttmacher research shows that abortion patients in fact have a clear understanding of their own lives and what they're willing and able to handle now and in the future. Since most already have children, you can't plausibly claim that they're unaware of the joys — or the burdens — of raising kids.

Walker's campaign has been dogged by credible allegations of domestic violence. He has been outed for having multiple unacknowledged children. It certainly sounds like there's an irresponsible person in this extremely typical abortion story. But it's not the woman who had the abortion. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Abortion Commentary Elections Georgia Herschel Walker Republicans Roe V. Wade Sexism