Walsh backtracks: Abortion to save a mother's life is up to her

In this Nov. 17, 2010 file photo, then-Rep.-elect Joe Walsh, R-Ill., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Chicago Sun-Times reports Thursday, July 28, 2011, that Walsh's ex-wife, Laura Walsh has sued her ex-husband for more than $117,000 in what she says is unpaid child support and interest. Laura Walsh filed the claim in December in their divorce case.
File,AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., on Friday attempted to clarify his position on abortion after inciting the wrath of women's groups the day before when he argued that abortion is never necessary to save a woman's life.

In comments first reported by WGN radio, Walsh argued that "with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" in which an abortion would be needed to save a woman's life. "There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing," he said following a debate with his Democratic rival Tammy Duckworth.

A "pro-life position" statement posted to Walsh's website Friday says: "When it comes to having an abortion to save the life of a 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, the research is pretty clear that with the advances in modern medicine, an invasive and traumatic procedure like an abortion is not necessary to save the life of a mother.

"In those very rare cases where a mother's life may be in danger past the point of viability for the baby, today's doctors work to induce labor or perform a caesarean section in an attempt to save BOTH lives," the statement continued. "These cases are extremely rare, and they unfortunately are used by the militant pro-choice movement to justify every single abortion.

"...While, I do not support abortion, I do of course support medical procedures for women during their pregnancies that might result in the loss of the unborn child. When such an occurrence takes place, that decision on whether to perform that procedure is a very difficult one and one that should be left up to the mother and her family."

Following his comment Thursday, Duckworth said in a written statement that she was "saddened" by Walsh's comments, adding, "Not only do they show how uninformed he is, but his views put women's lives in real danger." In his response Friday, Walsh said, "For Ms. Duckworth to say that I support letting a mother die is the most disgusting form of politics. That is a desperate quote from a desperate candidate."

Planned Parenthood disputed Walsh's comments as both false and "deeply troubling."

"Joe Walsh's ignorance about women's health is alarming," said Planned Parenthood's Dawn Laguens, in a statement. "It is deeply troubling that he and some politicians have such a fundamental disregard for women and women's health. As the advocate for Planned Parenthood health centers, we know that ending a pregnancy can often be a very complex, personal decision and that there are absolutely times that a woman's life depends on it."

Walsh currently represents Chicago's northwest suburbs in the House and is in a tough re-election battle with Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who political analysts say is favored to win on Election Day.

Lindsey Boerma contributed to this report.