Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at Empire Bucket, a manufacturing facility September 29, 2014 in Hudson, Wisconsin.
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty

How Scott Walker avoids the word ‘ultrasound’

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) unveiled a new ad yesterday that suggests he’s a tad concerned about the gender gap (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
“Hi, I’m Scott Walker. I’m pro-life, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the decision of whether or not to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor. Now reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsin citizens.”
Right off the bat, this is the sort of ad an incumbent runs when he’s on the defensive. If reproductive-rights issues weren’t a problem for the Republican governor this year, Walker wouldn’t bother airing messages like these.
 
For that matter, last November, the governor boasted that he felt inoculated on these issues, to the point that Walker was no longer concerned about their impact. Apparently, this prediction turned out to be wrong.
 
But it’s the substance of Walker’s ad that’s especially striking. He supports measures to “increase safety and to provide more information”? Those are interesting euphemisms: the Wisconsin Republican supports imposing regulations that close health clinics while forcing women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds.
 
Indeed, last year, Walker approved these sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights in Wisconsin, signing the legislation in private, late on a Friday before a holiday weekend. The measures have run into trouble in the courts, which is obviously good news for reproductive rights advocates in the state, but in the context of a political campaign, what matters is Walker’s policy goals.
 
And while the governor may call medically unnecessary ultrasounds “more information,” it’s hard to imagine anyone taking this seriously.
 
Indeed, all of this reminds me of one of my favorite Walker quotes: “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound,” he told reporters last year. “I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”
 
As we talked about at the time, Walker’s syntax – “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound” – has a similar construction to “I love lamp.”
 
But more important is the fact that Walker has struggled to understand that the underlying controversy has nothing to do with the existence of ultrasounds themselves. “I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine”? Why, yes, most people see ultrasounds as a legitimate procedure that can play a meaningful role in modern medicine. No one disputes this.
 
Walker’s policy, however, says that state government can mandate that women undergo ultrasounds for no medical reason whatsoever, regardless of the patient’s wishes, and regardless of what medical professionals consider necessary.
 
With four weeks remaining before Election Day, Walker has transitioned from “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound” to “providing more information.” The only way for Wisconsin voters to find this compelling is to ignore every relevant facet of the debate.
 

Reproductive Rights, Scott Walker and Wisconsin

How Scott Walker avoids the word 'ultrasound'