Wisconsin: Thompson Would Change Kohl Senate Seat on Abortion

State   |   Andrew Bair   |   May 18, 2011   |   11:51AM   |   Madison, WI

It did not take long for the race to fill the seat of retiring pro-abortion Senator Herb Kohl to heat up. Kohl’s retirement changes a solidly Democratic Senate seat into one the nation’s greatest toss-up races for 2012.

Just hours after Kohl’s announcement, many Republicans called on articulate and fiscally savvy Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to make a run for the seat. Considered by many to be a rising star in the Republican Party, Ryan delivered the GOP Response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this year. However, Rep. Ryan has officially turned down the call to run via a statement on his website, citing his current role in directing economic policy in the House.

“Our nation is quickly approaching a debt crisis that will do serious damage to Wisconsinites and all Americans if it is not properly addressed. I believe continuing to serve as chairman of the House Budget Committee allows me to have a greater impact in averting this debt-fueled economic crisis than if I were to run for the United States Senate.”

Even with Ryan declining to run, Republicans scored a top-tier recruit in pro-life former Governor Tommy Thompson. Thompson also served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush Administration and considered running for President in 2008. Thompson formed an exploratory committee in April 2007 but by October it became clear he would not be able to win the nomination and he dropped out of the race.

For years, Wisconsin Republicans have been urging Thompson to make a run for Senate. Reportedly, Thompson was close to running in 2010 against pro-abortion Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) but ultimately declined. Republican Ron Johnson went on to become the GOP nominee and defeated Feingold last November.

As Governor of Wisconsin, Thompson signed a bill making it a separate crime to injure or kill an unborn child during a crime against the mother.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, Thompson resisted heavy pro-abortion lobbying to propagate denial of the link between abortion and breast cancer.  Thompson also pulled the plug on a federal agency’s plan to support an international conference that is backing abortion.

Despite his opposition to abortion, Thompson has drawn criticism from pro-life advocates for his support for embryonic stem cell research. As HHS Secretary, Thompson defended President George W. Bush’s limits on forcing taxpayers to fund new embryonic stem cell research, but he lobbied the president not to adopt those limits. After Bush announced the policy, Thompson formed a federal task force to promote embryo-destructive research using the older lines that qualified for funding.

In September 2001, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Thompson admitted he was worried President Bush would ban embryonic stem cell research altogether.

” I was a counselor to the president and, as you know, I’ve been active in [embryonic] stem cells ever since Jamie Thomson discovered them,” Thompson said. “I’ve been very, very supportive of the science. I think it has great potential. I’ll just have to leave it at that. You’ll have to come to your own conclusions. But I was very active.”

Thompson apparently missed the memo that embryonic stem cell research holds little scientific promise while cures and treatments from adult stem cell research are already helping 50,000 people worldwide each year. Embryonic stem cell research has not helped a single patient nor has it been successful in years of experimental trials. While Thompson holds a commendable record on abortion, he will need to placate pro-life advocates on this important issue.

Even with Thompson in the race, it is not assured that he will take the nomination. Some have raised concerns over Thompson’s age. Thompson would be 71 years old at the time he takes the oath of office in 2013.

While not shocking that Kohl opted not to seek reelection, the announcement is hardly good news for Democrats. Democrats will now have to defend 6 open Senate seats and reelect 17 Democratic incumbents. Currently, only 2 Republican seats are open in 2012 and only 8 Republican incumbents are up for reelection.

No candidates have officially jumped into the race for the Democratic nomination but several names are being tossed around, including defeated pro-abortion former Sen. Russ Feingold, pro-abortion Rep. Ron Kind, and pro-abortion Rep. Tammy Baldwin. All of those potential candidates would continue Sen. Kohl’s radically pro-abortion record. Kohl holds a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee during this current legislative session.

Thompson may have need to answer tough questions from pro-life advocates over his past expressed support for embryonic stem cell research but it is irrefutable that his position on abortion would be a welcome change from the status quo.