Top Wisconsin Democrats acknowledge that labor issues are not "moving" voters in the state, so a major part of the Democratic recall campaign against Scott Walker will involve an effort to portray him as a belligerent in the so-called "war on women." But it's not at all clear that this is a battle the Democrats can win. The two leading Democratic candidates, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and Dane county executive Kathleen Falk, have staked out deeply unpopular positions on the issue of abortion that could prove toxic in the general election.
As a congressman from Milwaukee in 1993, Tom Barrett broke ranks with the other eight other members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation (three Democrats and five Republicans) when he voted against the Hyde amendment, a measure that prohibited federal funding of elective abortions for Medicaid recipients (the amendment made exceptions for the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at stake).
At an event in Madison last week, Barrett reaffirmed his support for taxpayer-funding of elective abortions under Medicaid.
"In Congress you voted against the Hyde amendment on Medicaid abortion funding. Do you still oppose the Hyde amendment?" Barrett was asked by THE WEEKLY STANDARD following a candidates forum in Madison on Wednesday.
"Yes, I do," Barrett replied.
Barrett's past support of taxpayer-funded elective abortions under Medicaid is something he might like to run away from in a general election. But he's now facing a strong challenge in the May 8 Democratic primary from Kathleen Falk, who has the backing of major unions and liberal groups like EMILY's List.
Falk assailed Walker in an April 6 statement for signing a bill to "prevent insurance companies participating in the state’s 'health care exchanges' under the federal health care reform act from offering coverage for abortion." But Falk actually may be a little bit to the right of Barrett on the issue of abortion. When asked Wednesday night if she supports abortion coverage under Medicaid, Falk dodged the question.
TWS: Do you support Medicaid covering abortion as well?
FALK: Um, I support women's reproductive health choices. And Governor Walker and the Republicans have gone way too far in preventing private insurance companies from covering reproductive health choices.
TWS: And Mayor Barrett has voted against the Hyde amendment, which is on Medicaid and abortion coverage. Do you oppose the Hyde amendment?
FALK: I wasn't in Congress. I was a county executive. I funded Planned Parenthood.
For the record, Walker hasn't signed any legislation prohibiting abortion coverage by private insurance plans. He signed a law prohibiting insurance plans from covering elective abortions under Wisconsin's government-subsidized and government-regulated insurance exchange that will begin in 2014 if Obamacare isn't repealed.
A national Quinnipiac poll taken during the Obamacare debate found that 72 percent of Americans oppose public funding of abortion.