Before Duggar family patriarch Jim Bob Duggar was a reality television star, the father of 19 children was a political figure in Arkansas. In 2002, he ran for U.S. Senate, challenging Republican Sen. Tim Hutchison in a primary. During his ultimately unsuccessful campaign, Duggar took a shockingly strong stance against abortion, suggesting rapists should be executed "instead of the innocent unborn baby." He suggested both rape and incest be considered "capital crimes."
Duggar's 2002 campaign site includes a list of political statements, including one on his abortion position. "If a woman is raped, the rapist should be executed instead of the innocent unborn baby. Adoption is an option," Duggar wrote. "Many couples would love to adopt and are waiting for a baby. Abortion has been and always will be the destruction of an innocent child. Rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes. The developing infant committed no crime and should be allowed to live. In the unlikely event that the life of both mother and baby would both be lost (for example, a tubal pregnancy) all should be done to save the life of the mother."
Duggar was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, when he decided to run for U.S. Senate. Hutchinson, the incumbent, trounced Duggar in the primary. (Hutchinson would go on to lose the general election to former Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor.) Duggar made an attempt to revive his political career in 2006 when he sought the Republican nomination for an Arkansas State Senate seat, but he lost.
While in the legislature, Duggar worked on several bills dealing with sexual assault, notes BuzzFeed News. He co-sponsored a January 2001 bill to add more categories to the list of sexual offenses in Arkansas' Sex and Child Offender Registration Act. One of these was "permitting the abuse of a child" and "pandering or possessing visual or print medium depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child." The bill's author withdrew it in April 2001, the same month Duggar sponsored another bill that would bar anyone convicted of a felony sex offense from being eligible for parole. That bill passed a few weeks later.
Duggar also co-sponsored a bill to allow rape victims to secure a permanent no-contact order against their attackers. The bill passed in February 2001. Duggar also supported a 2001 bill making 21 the legal age for nude dancing. Although the bill got stuck in committees, Duggar still included it on his Senate website. In 1999, he was the lead sponsor of a bill that made abortion punishable by death unless it was necessary to save a mother's life. The bill did not pass.
Today, the remnants of Duggar's political career still live on the web, and many of his positions were brought up again in 2015 when the Josh Duggar molestation scandal came to light. When Duggar's eldest son was between 14 and 15 years old, he molested five underage girls, including four of his siblings. Duggar did go to the police, but he claimed Josh was disciplined at home and sent to a counseling and physical labor program. Josh would go on to appear in the Duggars' TLC show until the scandal was made public. TLC canceled 19 Kids and Counting, but the Duggars continue to star in Counting On. Josh's wife Anna still appears on Counting On.