Herschel Walker backs 15-week proposed abortion ban that’s divided Republicans

The U.S. Senate hopeful broke with other national Republicans by saying he ‘would support’ Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposal

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker said he supports a 15-week national abortion ban proposed by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, breaking with other key national GOP figures who swiftly distanced themselves from the plan.

“I am a proud pro-life Christian, and I will always stand up for our unborn children,” Walker said Wednesday in a statement. “I believe the issue should be decided at the state level, but I WOULD support this policy.”

It amplifies what was already a major difference between the former football star and Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, an abortion rights supporter who has framed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade as a tragedy.

“Georgia voters will have a clear choice this fall between Rev. Warnock’s record of fighting to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and Herschel Walker, who wants to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at risk, and who would support a national abortion ban in the Senate,” Warnock spokeswoman Meredith Brasher said.

Graham’s proposal was met with resistance from U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in battleground states, reflecting a desire to avoid new debates on abortion at a time when inflation and other economic issues are the top factor for many voters and aid GOP candidates.

The Republican critics of Graham’s proposal note that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling leaves the question of abortion to the states. In Georgia, that cleared the way for a 2019 law that bans most abortions as early as six weeks to take effect.

The proposal also could create headaches for Gov. Brian Kemp, who faces a tough rematch against Stacey Abrams and would prefer to focus on the nation’s wobbly economy and a rise in violent crime rather than dive deeper into a fraught debate over abortion weeks before the midterm election.

“I haven’t been concerned about what’s going on in Washington,” Kemp said at a campaign stop in Calhoun. “I’ve been focused on helping our folks fight through 40-year high inflation, new taxes, disaster at the gas pump, disaster at the border. And that’s what I’m gonna stay focused on.”

Trailing in the polls, Abrams expects the abortion ruling to motivate swing voters who otherwise might gravitate to the GOP. Kemp, meanwhile, has said he would not pursue stricter state limits and is focused on implementing Georgia’s law.

“We’ll have plenty of time in the transition to see what’s going to happen during the next legislative session,” Kemp said when pressed anew on whether he’ll try to revisit the state’s anti-abortion law if he’s elected to a second term.

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Graham’s proposal would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, falling short of the stricter limits that many anti-abortion advocates sought. It includes exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is risk.

Walker has been open about his anti-abortion views. Early in his campaign, he filled out a survey from the Georgia Life Alliance that supported outlawing abortion, including in instances of rape and incest, saying he’d back “legislation which protects the sanctity of human life, even if the legislation is not perfect.”

But his support for Graham’s proposed ban puts him at odds with public opinion in Georgia. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in July found that most Georgia voters oppose the state’s new abortion law. Many voters in the poll said a candidate’s support or opposition to the procedure will have an impact on who gets their vote.

Though Graham’s proposal has created waves in the Republican Party, it has no chance of passing in the Senate this year. Likewise, a proposal that passed in the Democratic-controlled U.S House to protect access to abortion rights is unlikely to move in the Senate.

Still, supporters see it as a way to unify social conservatives who are anxious to press for stricter abortion limits. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, said he believes abortion-related measures should be up to the states, but added that he wasn’t concerned the proposal would backfire by energizing Democrats.

“People were more concerned about inflation. They’re concerned about crime. They’re concerned about Southern border,” said Carter. “Those are the issues that are being brought up to me.”

Staff Writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.