May 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

These GOP Senate candidates oppose most exceptions to abortion bans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A series of Republican candidates running in crucial Senate battlegrounds hold strict anti-abortion views — including opposing the procedure even in cases of rape and incest.

Why it matters: The views of these GOP front--runners go far beyond what Republicans have traditionally embraced: exceptions for rape, incest and the life of a mother. If elected, these candidates — from J.D. Vance in Ohio to Herschel Walker in Georgia — would push the party further right.

Between the lines: Even former President Trump, whose anti-abortion rights bonafides were a key component of his 2016 and 2020 platforms, favored exceptions to abortion bans.

  • In 2019, he tweeted: "As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions — Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother — the same position taken by Ronald Reagan."
  • The leaked draft signaling the Supreme Court's intent to overturn Roe v. Wade has thrust abortion into the forefront of the midterm elections.
  • The current candidates' views are in line with a series of abortion bans recently enacted at the state level in places like Ohio, Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas.

The big picture: The state laws and positions held by the Senate candidates have spurred new questions about whether Republicans — if they regain the majority in the House or Senate — will try to pass a federal abortion ban.

  • Such a measure wouldn't be signed into law while President Biden is in office but would tee up future legislation for when a Republican is back in the White House.


Herschel Walker, the former football star endorsed by Trump, filled out a survey from Georgia Life Alliance late last year stating he believes abortion should be illegal, including in instances of rape and incest.

  • “I am 100% pro-life. As Georgia’s next senator, I will vote for any legislation which protects the sanctity of human life, even if the legislation is not perfect,” he wrote on the form.
  • Last month, he told a pastor at Rock Springs Church: "I believe from the womb to the tomb.”

All five other Senate GOP candidates said during an Atlanta Press Club debate last week that they support a full ban on abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. Walker did not attend.


David McCormick — who's facing a heated primary with his Trump-backed opponent, Mehmet Oz — said during a debate in Harrisburg last month he's fully against all scenarios involving abortion, apart from "in the very rare instances there should be exceptions for the life of the mother.”

Oz made similar comments at the debate when asked directly about cases of rape and incest. He said he believes there should be an exception for the life of the mother: "We don’t want moms dying as they try to give birth to a child.”

North Carolina

Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), also endorsed by Trump, has left the door open to banning abortion in cases where a mother's life could be at risk as well as in cases of rape and incest.

  • When pressed on these specific scenarios during an interview with CBS last month, Budd said: "You need to look at it as a tragedy, and let's engage this person, let's talk with them. But let's also realize there's a second life there. And you had to look at it through those lenses in why would you want to take a second life for something that's already been harmed."

New Hampshire

Chuck Morse, former president of the state's Senate, helped write and pass a state budget that included a ban on abortions after 24 weeks — with no exceptions for rape, incest or for fetal viability, according to the Concord Monitor.

  • The ban does, however, include exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life or health.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who's up for re-election this fall, has long opposed including rape and incest exceptions in abortion cases — something that used to set him apart from his Republican colleagues.


J.D. Vance, the Trump-endorsed author of "Hillbilly Elegy" who was victorious in a crowded Republican primary last week, told Spectrum News he doesn't think rape and incest exceptions are necessary.

  • Vance said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right," adding, "The question to me is really about the baby."
  • “It’s not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term, it’s whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child’s birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society,” Vance said.
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