MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Tim Michels said Friday that he would sign an abortion ban with exceptions for rape and incest if it came to his desk as governor, a shift from his earlier statement that Wisconsin's 1849 ban — with an exception only for the life of the mother — was “an exact mirror” of his position.
Conservative radio host Dan O’Donnell asked Michels whether he would sign a bill passed by the Legislature with exceptions for rape and incest.
“I am pro-life, but I also understand that this is a representative democracy and if the people, in this case the Legislature, brought a bill before me, I would sign it," Michels responded.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, locked in a close race with Michels in the key swing state, supports abortion rights. Evers has backed a lawsuit by Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, that argues the state’s 1849 ban is superseded by another law passed in 1985 that would allow for abortions before the point of viability.
For months, Michels has campaigned on statements that he wouldn’t support exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. At a Dane County GOP event earlier this month, Michels said he would not soften his stance on abortion, despite receiving calls asking him to support rape and incest exceptions.
“I'm winning because people see a strong leader, a man of conviction, a man who doesn't waffle, a man who doesn't flip-flop. I'm gonna stick with what I know is right,” he said on Sept. 6.
Michels' campaign disputed that he was changing his position, saying he had simply answered a question about how he would handle a specific piece of legislation.
Polls have repeatedly shown that a majority of people in Wisconsin support abortion rights, and Wisconsin Democrats have made their backing of abortion rights central to campaigns this midterm.
A spokeswoman for Evers' campaign said she doubts that Michels' views have changed.
"Tim Michels has told us what he believes time and again, even promising earlier this month that he would not soften his dangerous views on abortion. We know he was telling us the truth over the past two decades as he consistently opposed these exceptions,” Evers spokesperson Kayla Anderson said.
Harm Venhuizen, The Associated Press