Van Orden doubles down on anti-abortion stance, says life begins at conception - TAI News
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Representative Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) speaks to media outside the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden doubled down on his stance against abortion during an appearance on a conservative radio talk show on May 9, adding that he ideologically aligns with the House Freedom Caucus, one of the most conservative groups in Congress, but disagrees with its methods.

While appearing on the far-right “John Fredericks Show,” Van Orden said, “I’m a pro-life guy. I’m a Republican, I’m a Christian, I’m a grandfather, and I’m a pro-life guy. I just am. I mean, life begins at conception and every baby is a child of God.”

Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL in his first term in the House of Representatives, is running for reelection in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District this fall. His win in 2022 flipped the swing district in western Wisconsin to the right for the first time in decades. Moderate Democrat Ron Kind held the seat for 13 terms before retiring in 2022. The race is seen by both the state and national Democratic parties as a key seat to flip to regain the House this year. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the district as leaning slightly Republican.

In the years since he entered politics, Van Orden has made headlines for outbursts and unsavory behavior. He was at the rally of supporters of former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, but claims he left before it turned into a riot; he berated a teenage page over a Pride month display at the library in Prairie du Chien, where he lives; he was seen cursing out teenage Senate pages who were taking photographs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda; and in a book he published in 2015, he bragged about exposing the genitals of a male patient in a military hospital without warning to two female junior officers while he was serving as a Navy SEAL. He described the officers as “two cute girls.”

Three Democrats are running to unseat Van Orden in a primary that will be decided in August. Eau Claire native Rebecca Cooke, a nonprofit leader and former small-business owner, came in second place in the 2022 Democratic primary and is running again. Longtime state Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point is also running, as is progressive political newcomer Eric Wilson of Eau Claire.

On abortion, Van Orden has teetered on his stance since taking office. While campaigning, he said he was strictly against all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. But after liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April 2023, swinging the court to the left, Van Orden urged state lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

After facing a backlash from Democrats, who accused him of flip-flopping, Van Orden reaffirmed that he was against abortion, saying in a statement that he supported the 15-week ban in order to prevent the state Supreme Court from removing all restrictions on abortion, saying the bill would “save the lives of as many unborn children as possible.”

“For those who say my position has changed, they are wrong. I am pro-life, stand with life, and I will not allow anyone on either side of this argument to put words in my mouth or define my beliefs,” he said.

Van Orden reasserts his stance on abortion and other issues even further with his comments on Fredericks’ show. During the interview, Van Orden was critical of members of the House Freedom Caucus, who had just attempted to oust Republican Speaker Mike Johnson. But while critical of the way its members govern, Van Orden said he agrees with many of the beliefs of the caucus, whose members are considered among the most conservative and far-right House Republicans. Many of them voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral win in 2020, attempted to overturn the Affordable Care Act in 2017, and opposed legislation protecting same-sex marriage in 2022.

“I am ideologically aligned with the Freedom Caucus more than I am not, by a wide margin. What I’m not aligned with is how they’re trying to get to that goal,” Van Orden said.

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