Unsurprisingly, abortion was the most fiery topic to come up in the debate between Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne and Republican challenger State Sen. Zach Nunn.
Both candidates for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District have campaigned on the issue, and on Thursday both were given a chance to explain their positions.
“There’s no one that should be making a decision for women’s reproductive health other than the woman,” Axne said. “She should have the involvement of her doctor and her family as her choice, but the choice certainly belongs with her.”
She reminded the audience that during the Republican primaries, Nunn put his support behind a nationwide abortion ban without exceptions.
“This man’s positions on abortion are extreme,” Axne said. “They’re out of touch with Iowans and they’re out of cuts with what women and people across this country especially here in Iowa want to see.”
Nunn tried to walk that back on Thursday, but didn’t deny he doesn’t support abortion.
“I am pro-life. I support the mother and the baby,” he said.
He did say some of his votes in the Iowa Legislature did have exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. But it’s also true that he raised his hand in May when asked if he supported a total ban on abortion, even after the moderator clarified a ban without exceptions.
Nunn pointed to votes in the Iowa Legislature to support women through pregnancy. The bill he mentioned was the More Options for Maternal Support (MOMS) program, which would give state funds to nonprofits that provide supplies, education and resources to people planning to carry pregnancies to term.
The legislation specifies that funding must go to organizations that primarily advocate against abortion.
He then accused Axne of having extreme views, including allowing abortion “up until the day of birth.”
“My opponent unfortunately, also has a voting record. It’s very extreme that will allow abortion up until the day of birth. Additionally, it would provide taxpayer funded abortions even if the child was viable,” he said. “This is more extreme than places we’ve seen anywhere else in the world other than China and North Korea and it’s wrong.”
No one has advocated for abortions up until the day of birth, but the claim is a popular one among antiabortion activists. Abortions later in pregnancy are rare, accounting for less than 1% of abortions, and happen because of complications to the fetus or to the patient’s health.
“I find that to be one of the most offensive statements I could ever hear as a mother of two boys and as the only one on this stage who’s actually given birth,” Axne said in response. “I take such great offense at that. Because you have no idea what it’s like to be a mother. You have no idea what it’s like to bear a child.”
She also pointed out that no one carries a pregnancy for nine months and suddenly decides to have an abortion.
“Nobody believes that a child should be born and then we should murder it and to say so it’s absolutely ridiculous and offensive at best,” Axne continued.
When asked whether the decision should be up to states or the federal government, Axne said the standards established by Roe v Wade should be codified into law. Especially since that was the standard most people recognize and that Americans say should be protected.
That was the purpose of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which Axne voted for in both 2021 and 2022. She emphasized that abortion is a personal decision women should get to make with their doctor and family.
“This shouldn’t be a decision that states get to make; this is a decision that women get to make,” she said. “I’m saying this is women’s decision. This doesn’t belong in the state legislature here in Iowa. We need to trust women on this issue.”
Nunn said he agreed with the Supreme Court.
“This is not my decision, this is Iowans’ decision,” he said. “We should give them the opportunity to take a vote, have their voice heard and move forward.”
Nunn has voted to restrict abortion in Iowa since 2017 when he voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks. He also voted for the bill to ban abortion after electrical activity is detected in the fetus—usually around six weeks, and commonly mislabeled as a heartbeat. He voted for the amendment to repeal the Constitutional right to abortion in Iowa and for the 24-hour waiting period.
Since the Supreme Court decision, Republicans have faced a lot of backlash from voters on abortion. When abortion was on the ballot in Kansas, a record number of voters turned out for that specific issue, and voter registration rates among young women have increased.
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