Republican congressional candidates Jeremy Hunt and Chris West say they support banning abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. However, Hunt told the Ledger-Enquirer that he supports the procedure in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
Both men are seeking the GOP nomination in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of Columbus and Macon.
The winner of June’s runoff faces incumbent Democrat Sanford Bishop, who said in a recent statement that he believes that “abortion should be legal, safe and an available choice in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life or health of a woman.”
Hunt, a 28-year-old former U.S. Army captain, offered his position on abortion during a Wednesday campaign event with former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration. Haley, who could run for president in 2024, has endorsed Hunt in the race.
“I believe that life starts at conception, and that’s something I’m gonna support no matter what,” Hunt said. “Of course, the life of the mother is different.”
Hunt said he is advocating for “crisis pregnancy centers” in the district as well as revamping the foster and adoption system.
“We have to have a culture that honors and appreciates life,” he said.
In response, West told the Ledger-Enquirer in a statement that he doesn’t support any exemptions, citing experiences during his own birth. Unlike Hunt, West expressed no support for abortion if the life of the mother is at-risk.
West, 38, said he was born with shoulder dystocia, a condition that occurs when one or both of a baby’s shoulders get stuck during labor and birth. The umbilical cord wrapped around West’s neck, nearly suffocating him in the birth canal.
“Statistically I never should have survived, and if I did, the doctors told my mother and father I would be severely physically and mentally challenged,” he said. “My dad asked the OB doctor if he could see me for a few minutes before they took me away after delivery. After placing his hands on my lifeless young body and offering a true prayer of faith, I began to breathe.
“It is out of that experience that has been told to me by many over the years, that I have always known God gave me life and purpose,” he added. “It is out of this framework that I know God greatly values the life of every person. We must do all we can to protect the lives of our little ones no matter where they are, and especially while vulnerable in the womb. The womb should be the safest place on earth.”
The statements from West and Hunt are part of a recent shift where, as the Supreme Court considers overturning Roe V. Wade, Republican politicians now oppose abortion exceptions for rape and incest.
Three of the four other Republican congressional candidates who made it to Georgia’s June runoffs said they support banning abortion during Atlanta Press Club debates earlier this week. Only District 6 candidate Jake Evans said abortions should be allowed if the life of the mother is at risk.
Hunt and West emerged as the two top vote-getters in May’s primary. Hunt led the field with just under 37% of the roughly 62,000 ballots cast. West, an attorney and Georgia Air National Guard officer, finished second with just over 30% of the vote.
Haley’s support of Hunt is one of several high-profile endorsements that he carries to this month’s runoffs. Others include U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, former CIA Director and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, GOP operative Karl Rove and former Georgia congressman and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
West’s endorsements include the three other GOP candidates who entered the congressional primary — Wayne Johnson, Vivan Childs and Paul Whitehead.
Haley’s Stand For America PAC is committed to flipping the U.S. House red in the November midterms. She explained why she endorsed Hunt Wednesday.
“It’s not just about winning races. It’s about getting the right types of people in the races,” Haley said. “We need people that are going to get to work on day one. Jeremy’s got that record. … He understands that in these rural, challenged districts, you lift up everyone.”
Other outside groups have offered Hunt support. As of last month, America Values PAC spent nearly $414,000 on Hunt. In addition, Hunt raised nearly $519,000 compared to West’s nearly $226,000, according to federal election data.
West criticized Haley’s visit to Columbus and told the Ledger-Enquirer that he is the “only true conservative” in the race.
“Not surprising, my out-of-state opponent flew in a fellow out-of-state Never-Trumper to campaign for him,” West said. “After all, 90% of his campaign cash comes from outside this district.”
West has attacked Hunt’s ties to the district throughout the election. Hunt, a Georgia native, is a Yale Law School student who registered to vote in Muscogee County in February of this year.
During this week’s Atlanta Press Club debate, Hunt said he was attending law school classes online. A Yale Law official told the Ledger-Enquirer that Hunt was enrolled as a student.
Early voting begins June 13, and Election Day is June 21.
This story was originally published June 9, 2022 6:00 AM.