Hawley affirms support for Herschel Walker after report Georgia Republican paid for abortion

Tom Williams/Associated Press file photo

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley on Tuesday reaffirmed his support for Herschel Walker after a report that the Georgia Republican Senate candidate, who opposes abortion rights, paid for an abortion for a girlfriend in 2009.

“Yes,” Hawley spokesperson Kelli Ford said in response to a question about whether the Missouri Republican still supports Walker.

Hawley, a Republican, endorsed Walker’s candidacy last year after the former University of Georgia football star formally launched his campaign. In October 2021, Hawley called Walker the “real deal.”

“Love his faith, his optimism, and his passion for Georgia and the United States of America,” Hawley tweeted at the time. “He’s going to be a great Senator and I’m proud to endorse him.”

Hawley has been vocal about his anti-abortion stance as a member of the Senate, championing the appointment of anti-abortion jurists to the U.S. Supreme Court under former President Donald Trump.

Walker, whose campaign manager Scott Paradise used to work for Hawley, has denied the report in The Daily Beast, which spoke to a former girlfriend, not named in the story, who said Walker had paid for an abortion after she became pregnant. She provided the news outlet a receipt showing her $575 payment for the procedure, along with a get-well card from Walker and her bank deposit records showing the image of a $700 personal check from Walker dated five days after the abortion receipt.

Abortion access has been a politically treacherous topic for Republicans since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and a number of states — including Missouri — imposed sweeping bans on the procedure. In Kansas, voters soundly defeated an amendment to the state constitution that would have given state legislators the power to ban or severely restrict abortion, giving Democrats hope that they can use the issue to mobilize voters in the November midterm elections.

Hawley recently signed on to co-sponsor a bill introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, that would prohibit most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Hawley is a co-sponsor along with Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt are not co-sponsoring the legislation.

In an interview with St. Louis TV station KSDK in May, prior to the court decision striking down Roe, Hawley said after Roe he didn’t support a federal abortion ban “in the first instance.”

“I mean, I think that what needs to happen first is Congress can look for areas where there’s national consensus and act on those, and then the people in our states, beginning with the people of Missouri, will finally get an opportunity to weigh in,” Hawley said in the interview. “And I think that’s as it should be, and then Congress can act where consensus is. But in the first instance, I would not support a federal ban on all abortions.”

Asked whether Hawley’s support for Graham’s bill contradicted his previous comments saying he doesn’t support a federal ban, Ford said big majorities of the American public, as well as Hawley, “support protecting life for babies who can feel pain in the womb.”

“As he has said time and again, where there is national consensus, Congress should act,” Ford said in a statement.

A survey conducted this summer by the Pew Research Center found that 62% of respondents said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 36% who said it should be illegal in all or most cases. The survey didn’t ask specifically about fetal pain.

Some abortion opponents argue fetuses can feel pain after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that a fetus doesn’t have the capacity to feel pain until 24 to 25 weeks.

Graham’s bill hasn’t received widespread Republican support, with some national Republicans fearful it distracts from the party’s messaging on inflation and other issues. Marshall won’t be on the ballot until 2026 and Hawley isn’t up for re-election until 2024, though he is also seen as a potential presidential candidate.

The Associated Press contributed reporting