Rep. Joe Walsh edges away from controversial remark about abortion

Republican Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.) on Friday tempered his remark that abortions are never necessary to save the lives of pregnant women, saying such a situation might arise in "very rare circumstances." 

The freshman congressman stoked controversy Thursday when he said that medicine has advanced to the point that abortions are never necessary.

"With modern technology and science, you can't find one instance," Walsh said after a debate. "There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing." 

On Friday, at a press conference, Walsh moderated his previous comment when he said abortions are "often" not necessary to save women. 

"When it comes to having an abortion to save the life of the mother, I will say again that outside of the very rare circumstances, such as ectopic pregnancies, during which both the mother and baby will die if the baby is not aborted, and other rare health issues and circumstances, the research is pretty clear that with the advances in modern medicine an invasive and traumatic procedure like abortion is often, thankfully, not necessary to save the life of a mother," Walsh said. 

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Walsh’s comment was denounced by the medical community, Democrats and abortion-rights supporters.  

On Friday afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) slammed Walsh and joked that he must get his information "from the same elite medical school" as Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). 

Akin, who is challenging Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), in August said victims of "legitimate rape" rarely become pregnant, a comment for which he later apologized. 

"Congressman Joe Walsh’s comments expose how Tea Party House Republicans have replaced reality and science with right-wing ideology that’s uninformed and dangerous to women’s health," the DCCC said Friday. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also responded to Walsh's statement, saying that abortions "are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman or to preserve her health." 

"Pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions," the college said. "Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related reasons right here in the U.S. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives." 

Walsh's press conference took place in Elk Grove Village Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune. He reportedly arrived with his wife but did not take questions. 

Abortion and women's health issues have been at the forefront of several races this election cycle, including the contest for the White House.

The Republican Party platform would ban the procedure with no exceptions, while the Democratic Party platform would allow it with no exceptions. Most Republicans, however, say there should be exceptions in the case of rape, incest and life of the mother.

Walsh is running against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, in a race The Hill rates as a likely Democratic pickup.