Defending a controversial bill he signed that requires women to undergo ultrasound exams before getting abortions, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said ultrasounds are "just a cool thing out there."
The Republican governor and likely presidential candidate was asked about the bill, which he signed into law in July 2013, in an interview with conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Friday. The exchange was first reported yesterday by the liberal site Right Wing Watch.
Loesch asked Walker what role he thinks social issues ought to play in the 2016 election and whether he thinks conservatives are afraid to embrace their stances on those issues or are afraid to be "trapped by the media."
Walker said he thinks in some cases, it's a media "gotcha" issue, but wouldn't apply that rule universally.
"I'll give you an example. I'm pro-life, I've passed pro-life legislation," Walker said. "We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are. So that's a lovely thing. I think about, my sons are 19 and 20, you know, we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there."
"We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information that more people, if they saw that unborn child, would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child," he continued.
The governor told Loesch conservatives should make sure to promote their fiscal and economic policies, but added that they also shouldn't be afraid to talk about abortion.
Attached to the ultrasound law was a provision mandating that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinic. The admitting privileges portion of the law is currently blocked by a court decision.
That law was the subject of a campaign ad during Walker's 2014 re-election bid, in which his abortion stance almost came across as moderate. Speaking directly to the camera in a spot that aired last October, Walker described the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy as "an agonizing one."
"That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options," Walker said in the ad. "The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor. Now, reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsin citizens."
Following the release of that ad, Walker declined to say whether his position on abortion had changed or whether he wanted all abortions made illegal.
"My position is that I’m pro-life, and the bottom line is that, as I pointed out the other day, that that position relates to what the United States Constitution ruled more than 40 years ago," Walker told reporters in October 2014. "So in terms of issues that are brought up in the future, we're going to focus on the things that the state has the legal right to look at."
The governor's answers to questions about abortion during the 2014 campaign, along with the ad, indicated a desire to appear moderate among voters on an issue where he's held an absolutist stance throughout his career.
Since then, his public comments have shifted back in line with his anti-abortion position. In March, days after a conservative activist called into question Walker's stance on the issue, the governor said he would sign into law a 20-week abortion ban if such legislation landed on his desk.
While pro-life groups and some Republican lawmakers had signaled for months they would introduce such a ban, Walker had previously declined to comment on whether he would sign it.
That bill was introduced last week, and its Republican authors have said they hope to fast-track it. It includes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. In the case of a medical emergency, a physician would only be allowed to terminate the pregnancy "in the manner that, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive."
Co-sponsors Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, told WisconsinEye's Steve Walters last week that under their understanding, Walker is "comfortable" with the bill as it is.
"I think he's ready to go," Kremer said.
Listen to Walker's full interview with Loesch here: