With the 2022 midterms now only a month away, there isn’t a candidate anywhere who can avoid fielding questions about abortion. The issue is fair game thanks to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in its recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. And all the more so because, at least in theory, Congress could act to either federally legalize abortion or federally ban it.
So it is that abortion has become a major topic of conversation in the US Senate campaign in Georgia, where NFL legend Herschel Walker and incumbent Senator Rafael Warnock are locked in one of the most pivotal races this year.
Even as many Republican candidates have softened their language or de-emphasized abortion in their campaigns, Walker has taken the bold step of endorsing Senator Lindsey Graham’s bill to enact a federal ban on abortion after fifteen weeks.
Normally, voters should admire a candidate for taking a principled position. After all, Dobbs is a once-in-a-generation win. After decades of legal and political work, the Supreme Court’s decision represents a pathway for ending the scourge of abortion and protecting the most innocent and underrepresented lives in America. And Walker does appear willing to take some blows on the issue.
It’s too bad his history disqualifies him as a serious pro-life voice.
Last week, the Daily Beast revealed that Herschel Walker had paid for an abortion in 2009. After strenuously denying the accusation, further reporting identified the woman as the mother of another one of Walker’s children. These children were revelations in their own right.
The former NFL running back thus hid the existence of his other children from the press — as well as his own campaign — until finally admitting to fathering three children out of wedlock in addition to his adult son, Christian Walker. His relationships with them appear somewhat obligatory: court-ordered child support, a paternity suit, and a few gifts on birthdays and Christmas. And while Walker says he never “hid” the existence of the other children, his campaign staff says he lied when he was asked about them.
For a man campaigning on the importance of fatherhood and the family, as well as the right to life, these stories are utterly compromising. It’s not just that Walker encouraged his girlfriend to have the procedure and paid for it. It’s that he continues to lie about it.
The movement dedicated to the unborn has always included the voices and testimony of those who have changed their minds on abortion. Redemption and reconciliation are key, by virtue of the overlap between Christian churches and pro-lifers. A defining feature of many public arguments for life is the act of sharing these experiences, expressing regret, and encouraging others to choose life instead.
The fact that redemption is built into the arc of the pro-life movement, and that so many have “come out” and admitted they’ve come to regret the decision, makes Walker’s past and subsequent lying all the more problematic.
Does Walker not trust pro-lifers? Or does he believe they are fools who can be easily deceived?
Being pro-life entails more than being against abortion. It means supporting young mothers in crisis, being accountable as a parent to your children, opposing the death penalty, and working to reform broken government programs that trap children and mothers in cycles of poverty. Most importantly, it starts in your own life and then grows outward.
Being pro-life isn’t a talking point; it is a lifestyle. And unfortunately, Mr. Walker hasn’t lived it. Through both his actions and inactions, he has shown pro-life voters that he cannot be trusted on this issue.
There is no pro-life candidate on the ballot in Georgia’s Senate race this fall.
The worst part of this may be the missed opportunity. There is a reason those who favor access to abortion believe in it so strenuously. Because despite the “pro-choice” moniker, these proponents don’t see a choice. They view unintended pregnancies as a trap. Society and economic realities reinforce this worldview. Young people, fearful of this vision, often feel as if there is no other option but to end the pregnancy, and the life of the baby they are carrying.
Walker’s denials mean he is missing the chance to talk to these young mothers (and fathers) about other options. With abortion a polarizing topic, Herschel Walker, a reformed father, could send a message about what it means to choose life and honor the concept of family. Instead, he’s lying, and in doing so sending a message that reinforces the status quo.
Raphael Warnock has made his stance clear. He endorses abortion as a simple choice women can make about their bodies, as if they are the only party with something at stake. Pro-life voters in Georgia should leave this issue off the table this year. Vote for Walker because you want the GOP to control the Senate. But don’t pretend your vote is about his stance on life.