- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker last year and who is running for a full term has come under fire for things she wrote as a college student, including that abortion was a “holocaust of our children” and that AIDS victims deserved no sympathy.

Justice Rebecca Bradley’s 1992 opinion pieces, which were published in The Marquette Tribune when she was a student at Marquette University, a private Jesuit school, were brought to light this week by a liberal attack group trying to prevent her from winning a 10-year term on Wisconsin’s highest court. Bradley, who was appointed by the Republican Walker in October, is part of a five-justice conservative majority on the seven-person court.

The new light shed on Bradley’s student columns has led to a strong backlash from Wisconsin Democrats. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat and first openly gay member of the Senate, has called it “hate speech,” and other liberals have called on Bradley to resign.

Bradley, 44, said on a conservative Milwaukee talk radio show Tuesday that she was “deeply sorry” for what she wrote. Her campaign has said calls for her to resign are absurd.

“I have become a much better person than I was back then,” Bradley said on WTMJ radio. “It’s ridiculous to suggest that people cannot change in the course of a quarter-century.”

Also on Tuesday, Walker defended his appointment of her, but stopped short of condemning what she wrote as a 20- and 21-year-old student.

“It was appropriate that she clearly stated that those are not her opinions now and that they haven’t been in her professional practice as an attorney nor in any of the judicial positions that she’s had,” Walker said. “I think a good chunk of society has got very different views than they did in college, particularly for someone who (attended) almost a quarter of a century ago.”

Bradley referred to homosexuals as “queers” and “degenerates” in the columns, which generated numerous letters in opposition that the student newspaper published at the time. Bradley said Tuesday that she began to change her mind about the topic based on that response, as well as people she has met and experiences she has had in the subsequent years.

Her campaign manager, Luke Martz, said that Bradley has attended fundraisers for gay advocacy groups in recent years and donated money to a camp for children suffering from HIV and AIDS.

“My views on these issues have changed and I am a fair and compassionate person to every person who has come before me as a judge, Bradley said.

Her campaign spokeswoman, Madison Wiberg, said that she wouldn’t comment on the anti-abortion column from 1992 because the issue could come before the state Supreme Court.

In that column, Bradley argued that life begins at conception and it was “incomprehensible” that people could argue that they have “a right to murder their own flesh and blood.”

“Our society is turning a blind eye to this holocaust of our children, largely for the sake of the convenience, or perhaps the financial concerns of the women who choose abortion,” she wrote.

Bradley faces state Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in the April 5 election. The race is officially nonpartisan, but liberals are supporting Kloppenburg and conservatives are backing Bradley.

Kloppenburg has condemned Bradley for the writings, saying “There is no statute of limitations on hate.”

Walker previously appointed Bradley to two lower court vacancies before placing her on the Supreme Court four months ago.

Asked if he talked to Bradley about her views on sexual orientation before appointing her, Walker would only say that her experiences as an attorney and her bench rulings are relevant, not her college writings.

“It’s really irrelevant in that it’s right now up to the voters,” Walker said. “The voters will decide come the primary in April. And I think the contrast is pretty clear.”

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Associated Press writer Gretchen Ehlke in Brown Deer contributed to this report.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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