Barnes, who has featured his mother in previous campaign ads, made the statement during a Friday evening debate in Milwaukee, where he faced off against Johnson — who has taken the lead in several recent polls in the purple state.
“I’m an only child, but I’m not my mother’s only pregnancy. Before I was born, my mother had a complicated pregnancy, and she had an abortion. She shared her story because she wanted others to know that they aren’t alone and then it was her decision to make,” he said.
Johnson, who is pro-life, responded by saying that Barnes supports abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
“The most extreme position here would be no limits on abortion whatsoever,” the incumbent Republican said. “Allowing abortion right up to the moment of birth, which is what the lieutenant governor supports.”
Barnes had attacked Johnson for his support for the Supreme Court Decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade and effectively returned abortion legislation back to the states.
The two candidates also sparred over crime at the debate, which was hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcast Association. Johnson said that Barnes was soft on crime and pointed to his association with groups and individuals who support defunding the police, though Barnes has denied he supports the movement.
“The first thing you do is support law enforcement and unfortunately the lieutenant governor has not done that,” Johnson said. “He has a record of wanting to defund the police. He says it pains him to see fully funded police budgets.”
Barnes responded by claiming that Johnson had “supported” the January 6 Capitol riot.
The debate mirrored the strategies taken by the candidates on the campaign trail, with Barnes attempting to motivate Democrats over abortion issues and Johnson emphasizing crime.
Polling has flipped in recent weeks, with Johnson jumping into the lead after trailing Barnes for much of the early polling with just weeks to go before the election. Johnson told The Daily Wire in June that he expects the race to come down to the wire, saying that his race was “crucial to stop the Biden agenda.”
The next debate will be at Marquette University on Thursday, October 13.