BATON ROUGE, La. — The Democratic challenger to U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in a Louisiana congressional race released a campaign ad on social media that includes video of her giving birth.
Katie Darling said she was seven months pregnant when she decided to join the race in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that ended constitutional protections for abortion. The 75-second video documents Darling traveling from her family farm in St. Tammany parish in September to a hospital, where she grips the side of a bed while in labor.
“I wanted to share that this is real for me,” Darling, 36, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am literally the one hooked up to the machines and the IVs in the hospital bed, going through childbirth and nobody else should be deciding how I handle that.”
In a voiceover, Darling highlights her concerns about climate change, Louisiana underperforming in education and the state’s near-total abortion ban — the only exceptions to the ban are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the patient if they continue with the pregnancy and in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies — when the fetus has a fatal abnormality. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
“Louisiana deserves better than the path it’s on,” Darling says in the video. “I want that better path,” she adds, “for you” – as the ad pans to her husband in the delivery room. “For her,” as a the video shows her six-year-old daughter. “And for him,” she says directly into the camera from her hospital bed as she cradles her newborn.
Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the ad is part of a larger trend of how women have used motherhood in campaign ads in recent years as a selling point.
“In all of these cases (candidates) are really using their motherhood in their identity and their childbirth as saying, ‘I understand most innately and I’m most committed to these issues in the future because of my children,’” Dittmar said during a press availability Tuesday.
While Darling’s ad garnered more than 1 million views and nearly 6,000 retweets as of Tuesday afternoon, she faces an uphill battle for a seat Republicans have held since 1977.
Scalise has held Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, which includes suburban New Orleans, the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain south to the Mississippi River delta, since 2008 and is seeking his ninth consecutive term in November. He reported more than $8 million cash on hand in his most recent campaign finance report. Darling has not yet reported how much she has raised.
Howard Kearney, a libertarian, is also running for the seat.
Associated Press reporter Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.