UCare generously supports MinnPost’s Second Opinion coverage; learn why.

Rep. Joe Walsh’s abortion comment is stunning in its ignorance

Rep. Joe Walsh claimed Thursday that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman.

The medical ignorance of some politicians — particularly in regard to women’s reproductive health — continues to astonish me.

The latest example of such ignorance comes from Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill). Citing unnamed “advances in science and technology,” he told reporters Thursday night that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman.

That’s right. Never.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother,” Walsh stated in a brief press conference after a televised debate with his pro-choice Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth.

“Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions [at] any time, under any reason,” he added.

Dr. Carrie Terrell
Dr. Carrie Terrell

The idea there is some kind of modern medical technology or procedure that has made full-term pregnancies suddenly perfectly safe for all women is news to Dr. Carrie Terrell, an ob-gyn and chief of staff at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

“There are innumerable potential instances wherein a termination of pregnancy would be indicated to save a woman’s life,” she said in a phone interview Friday.

That list includes “but is not limited to,” she said, such serious conditions as:

  • chorioamnionitis in pre-viable pre-term premature rupture of membranes (a bacteria-related inflammation of the fetal membranes),
  • severe pre-eclampsia and other hypertensive (high blood pressure) disorders,
  • certain forms of cardiomyopathy (a disease that weakens and enlarges the heart),
  • various maternal cardiac and pulmonary anomalies,
  • severe nephrosis,
  • severe cancers,
  • infections with sepsis, and
  • multi-organ failure.

Terrell said that in her practice, she sees pregnant women with these kinds of conditions several times a year.

“Even in these cases, it is still the woman’s choice whether or not to proceed with termination,” she added.

Sometimes, said Terrell, women do decide to proceed with their pregnancies, despite the threat the pregnancy poses to their lives. And sometimes they die as a result.

Terrell said she has no idea what advances in technology Walsh was talking about.

“We’ve probably advanced with the number of conditions we can treat and keep women pregnant,” she said, “but there are still limitations to that.”

Statements such as those from Walsh are “frustrating and just kind of medically ridiculous,” Terrell added. “We just have to dismiss a lot of things that people say.”

And maybe start requiring that politicians take — and pass — a course in women’s health.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/19/2012 - 03:12 pm.

    Kind of?

    Why would they be “kind of” medically ridiculous? They ARE medically ridiculous. For pity’s sake, this man believes that women are worth only what they can bear in their uteruses. If we were talking about cattle, you would find that although the cow doesn’t get a choice, at least she’s valued enough to know you don’t sacrifice the cow for a non-viable calf. How is it that these politicians view women as something less than cattle?

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/19/2012 - 03:30 pm.

    Let us not be bound by fact-checkers…

  3. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 10/19/2012 - 03:59 pm.

    Good News Is Coming!

    Real Clear Politics has Rep. Walsh tabbed as one the two incumbent House members who are virtually certain to be defeated on Nov. 6. He will not be missed.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2012 - 07:10 pm.

    Roman Hruska

    To paraphrase the late Roman Hruska of Nebraska, there are a lot of ignorant people so maybe they deserve representation by their peers.

  5. Submitted by John Hottinger on 10/19/2012 - 07:42 pm.

    Illinois wisdom

    Hooray for the wisdom of the voters in Illinois when they replace this clown with Tammy Duckworth, a true American hero.

  6. Submitted by Diane Nelson on 10/19/2012 - 07:52 pm.

    The irony!

    Misguided Republicans like to declare Obamacare will be run by “non-medical government workers making medical decisions for everyone.”

    And it’s been only legislators with an R behind their name, with no medical credentials, and clearly no understanding of even basic medicine, who make such egregious claims about women’s reproductive health – in an effort to make decisions for all of us!

  7. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 10/20/2012 - 10:42 am.

    basic knowledge

    Why can’t we make sure anyone we elect has some basic knowledge about everything–such as what a high school graduate knows (or is supposed to know) on graduation, or some other test that measures a person’s fitness for office? Why can’t we make them take the MMPI? Or how about an SAT test. If these clunks are going to make medical decisions, they have to know the facts–and the lack of knowledge among these doofusses is really scary.

  8. Submitted by David Frenkel on 10/21/2012 - 12:10 am.


    Much of this insanity comes from lobbyists who constantly bombard elected officials with money and misinformation. Riding the poltical platforms of the right causes can give a politican a hefty re-election fund.

Leave a Reply