Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker campaigns Sept. 7, 2021, in Emerson, Georgia, north of Atlanta. (AP Photos/Bill Barrow, File)

Republicans are sticking by Herschel Walker, their U.S. Senate nominee in Georgia, despite hard evidence that he impregnated a woman and then paid for her abortion. The woman shared with The Daily Beast the receipt from the abortion clinic and a deposited check receipt from a few days later showing a $700 payment from Walker—which the woman said covered the $575 abortion and related expenses. She also provided a get-well card signed by the Heisman Trophy winner. In a subsequent report, the woman told The Daily Beast that she is the mother of one of Walker’s out-of-wedlock children. Walker’s outspoken son, the conservative podcaster Christian Walker, posted a video on Twitter corroborating the report: “It’s literally his handwriting in the card [yet] he lies about it. OK, I’m done.” None of this would be controversial, except that Walker supports making abortion illegal without exceptions.

Republican leaders did not flinch. “Republicans stand with him,” said Senator Rick Scott, who runs the GOP’s Senate campaign operation. “We are full speed ahead in Georgia,” said the head of the super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Walker’s longtime friend Donald Trump posted on his social media site, “They are trying to destroy a man who has true greatness in his future.” No surprise there. Winning control of the Senate would be very hard for Republicans without defeating the Democratic incumbent, Senator Rafael Warnock. Sure, Walker is a hypocrite. But political parties, Republican or Democratic, are not in the habit of cutting loose hypocrites, especially when power is at stake.

The reaction from America’s leading anti-abortion organizations, however, is much more surprising and revealing. The leaders of these groups claim to believe that abortion is tantamount to homicide. To follow their logic, supporting Walker is supporting a man who is credibly accused of paying for a contract killing.

Yet the National Right to Life Committee issued a defiant statement: 

The anonymous attack on Herschel Walker is just the latest in a series of attempted Democratic character assassinations going back to the allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas. National Right to Life stands behind its endorsement of Herschel Walker. It is the Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, who has in fact voted to pay for thousands of abortions. Herschel Walker wants to protect unborn children, while Raphael Warnock wants to see them die through unlimited abortion. The Democratic party knows it cannot win on the issues, so we once again see an attempted character assassination, a tactic that is sadly all too often encouraged by a compliant and willing media.

Women Speak Out PAC, the super PAC aligned with the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, also took the candidate at his word: “Herschel Walker has denied these allegations in the strongest possible terms, and we stand firmly alongside him.”

“Strongest possible terms” is charitable. Walker’s defense on Fox News’s Hannity was wobbly. Asked by Sean Hannity if he signed the get-well card, he unconvincingly responded: “I send out so many get well—send out so much of anything.” Asked if he sent anyone a $700 check, Walker said, “I send money to a lot of people.”

The 60-year-old doesn’t deny sending the card or the check. But he won’t give a specific reason why he sent this card and this check, let alone offer evidence that the reason wasn’t reimbursement for an abortion.

Theoretically, anti-abortion organizations can use utilitarian philosophy to justify sticking by Walker. Why abandon a candidate over one abortion from 13 years ago when, if he is in the Senate, he can vote to ban millions of abortions? Or to quote Mr. Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

The problem for the pro-life movement is that their leaders do not peddle Vulcan logic. They peddle the idea that every life is sacred and deserves constitutional rights at conception.

The NRLC publishes a guide, “When They Say … You Say,” on how to counter pro-choice arguments. When responding to the question, “What if the woman is a victim of rape or incest,” the NRLC recommends this response: “We don’t cure illness by killing the patient.” When faced with an argument about unwanted children contributing to poverty, the NRLC offers this retort: “Killing this child will never help address those issues.” To refute the argument that a fetus is “just a blob of tissue,” the NRLC declares: “The baby living in her mother is as distinct and unique a separate person/human being as I am from you.”

These views do not square with cold utilitarianism. You can’t insist that every fertilized egg is a human being and then fail to condemn Herschel Walker, who, from that perspective, almost surely paid to kill another human being. At least, you can’t do so and expect to retain any moral high ground.

The pro-life movement has always welcomed those who admitted to performing or receiving abortions and then expressed remorse. These include Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade, and Bernard Nathanson, the obstetrician who helped found what is now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, then switched sides and worked with the NRLC on the anti-abortion film The Silent Scream.

Walker, however, admits nothing. Most bizarrely, when asked on The Hugh Hewitt Show, “Do you need to be forgiven?” Walker responded, “Had that happened, I would have said it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of there. You know, people have done that, but I know nothing about it.” There’s nothing to be ashamed of … if you support abortion rights! Walker and the anti-abortion outfits backing him, however, are just shameless.

The power-hungry Donald Trump/Mitch McConnell–led GOP may not be concerned with holding the moral high ground, but the pro-life movement has nothing without moral high ground. They are losing public opinion, and even red states like Kansas resist their attempts to abolish reproductive rights. The pro-life movement was able to stack the Supreme Court and overturn Roe. But to pass new legislation—and keep the abortion bans now on the books—anti-abortion activists need to persuade. They must convince those with mixed feelings about abortion that flat bans are a moral imperative. How can you persuade others to accept a morally absolutist argument when you have compromised the moral principle at stake?

Walker’s abortion debacle reveals that the anti-abortion movement is as power-hungry as Trump or McConnell. Like a craven politician, it will jettison principle if it means winning elections, And that raises the question: To what end does the “pro-life” movement want political power? If the objective is to save the lives of the unborn, then unborn life wouldn’t be so expendable. But if the objective is to impose theocratic beliefs on an unwilling electorate, then moral trade-offs become easier to rationalize.

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Bill Scher is political writer at the Washington Monthly. He is the host of the history podcast When America Worked and the cohost of the bipartisan online show and podcast The DMZ. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillScher.