Until recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has maintained a well-defined stance on abortion. When asked in previous elections where he stands, he's made it clear he opposes the procedure even in cases of rape, incest or protecting the health of the mother.
With that position, among others, he's often lassoed the support of anti-abortion organizations. In 2010, he was endorsed by both Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin. During his 2012 recall election, both groups gave him the nod again.
While both groups lobby and push for anti-abortion policies, Pro-Life Wisconsin tends to take a more strident approach with its efforts. The group is the state's flagbearer for the "personhood" movement, which seeks to legally define human life as beginning at fertilization — rather than when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. A personhood law would effectively halt all abortions and could also make some forms of birth control illegal.
In September, Wisconsin Right to Life issued its list of statewide candidate endorsements for the November election, which included Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel. The organization also offers a glowing review of "The Walker Record on Life" from 1993 to the present.
Pro-Life Wisconsin issued its own endorsement list in July, before the Aug. 12 primary election, followed by a narrowed list for the Nov. 4 general election. Most notably, the group did not publicly endorse any candidates in the races for attorney general, lieutenant governor or governor for the primary or general elections.
Pro-Life Wisconsin evaluates political candidates by their responses to a 10-question survey sent during each election cycle. In order to receive an endorsement, a candidate must answer "yes" to every question — giving them a "100 percent pro-life" rating — and complete an interview with members of the political action committee board.
"Scott Walker did not complete our 2014 candidate survey and therefore is ineligible for an endorsement," wrote Matt Sande, director of the Pro-Life Wisconsin Victory Fund PAC, in an email. "His campaign manager stated in a letter that 'our campaign will not be completing any interest group surveys or interviews.'"
But you wouldn't know it from Walker's campaign website, where he touts endorsements from both groups.
"Tonette and I have a strong belief in the protection of all innocent life. That is why our family believes in the sanctity of all human life – from conception to natural death. I am 100% pro-life.
In my campaign for governor, I am proud to have been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which recognized my long commitment to right to life issues and noted that my election 'would greatly contribute to building a culture of life where the most vulnerable members of the human family are welcomed and protected.'
I was also endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which said that a Walker Administration 'will have far-reaching, positive effects for Wisconsin citizens who value the dignity of all innocent human life.'"
The quote from Wisconsin Right to Life is taken from the political action committee's dual endorsement of Walker and Mark Neumann in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. The Pro-Life Wisconsin quote also comes from a dual endorsement of Walker and Neumann in the 2010 primary race.
The liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, which raised questions about the claim of the endorsement, also noted the language on the page appears to be nearly identical language copied from previous Walker campaign websites.
The language has been hosted on ScottWalker.com since the domain was changed from ScottWalker.org in January 2014. The same "values" description was on the ScottWalker.org website during Walker's recall campaign in 2012.
It's a slightly modified version of the description that appeared on Walker's website when he ran in 2010. The 2010 version contains no mention of Tonette, and introduces the endorsements slightly differently:
"I am 100% pro-life and believe in protecting life from conception to natural death. As governor, I will protect the sanctity of all human life.
I am proud to be endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, which noted that my election 'would greatly contribute to building a culture of life where the most vulnerable members of the human family are welcomed and protected.'
I have also been endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin which said that a Walker Administration 'will have far-reaching, positive effects for Wisconsin citizens who value the dignity of all innocent human life.'"
Pro-Life Wisconsin's endorsement list is much smaller than the one issued by Wisconsin Right to Life, as candidates are held to a much more rigid set of requirements to receive the organization's support.
Endorsements were offered for one state Senate candidate, compared to Wisconsin Right to Life's 13. Pro-Life Wisconsin endorsed 20 state Assembly candidates, compared to Wisconsin Right to Life's 73. Only two endorsements were offered for congressional races, while Wisconsin Right to Life endorsed seven candidates.
For the 2012 election cycle, Pro-Life Wisconsin added a direct question about support for a personhood amendment to the state's constitution. The question appears again on the 2014 survey. Candidates were asked a similar question in 2010, relating to legislation instead of a constitutional amendment.
The survey also asked whether candidates would support legislation banning abortion in all cases.
Walker has held a "no exceptions" stance in the past. As a state lawmaker, in 1998, he co-authored a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape, incest or protecting the woman's health. Physicians who performed the procedure would have faced life in prison.
In 2010, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board that he is completely opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
"Well, I'm pro-life, because I believe that's an unborn child," Walker told the board.
Walker has signed some of the most aggressive anti-abortion measures in the nation into law while in office, including a bill that requires women to undergo ultrasound exams while doctors describe the image before getting abortions, and mandates that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinic. The admitting privileges portion of the law is currently blocked by a court decision.
Five Planned Parenthood clinics have shut their doors since Walker took office, as a result of his decision to eliminate family planning dollars from the state budget.
He's taken some heat from women's health and reproductive rights advocates this week after releasing a direct-to-camera ad in which he portrays a more moderate position on abortion than he has conveyed in the past. Democratic candidate Mary Burke quickly released an ad highlighting that editorial board conversation.
Asked by Channel 3000 on Wednesday whether he wanted all abortions made illegal, Walker responded, "That's not even an option in the state. The Supreme Court more than 40 years ago ruled that is not an option."
One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross said touting the endorsement of a group that didn't grant it for this election is an example of "the alarming pattern of deception with Scott Walker when it comes to women's health," noting the governor's past support of Pro-Life Wisconsin and of laws the group supports.
"This campaign, Scott Walker is ducking them and instead copying and pasting past endorsements," Ross said. "The irony is that this documented lie to the people of Wisconsin appears as the one issue item on Scott Walker's 'Values' page on his campaign website. The disturbing question is: Why is Scott Walker lying about this?"
The Walker campaign did not return a request for comment.