Republican candidates for 3rd District say abortion should be illegal, no exceptions

By: - May 4, 2022 5:10 pm

Republican candidates for Iowa’s 3rd District participated in a televised debate on May 3, 2022. (Screenshots from WHO-TV debate; Des Moines photo by Perry Beeman)

The three Republicans running for Iowa’s 3rd District House seat agreed during a televised debate that all abortions should be illegal in the U.S.

State Sen. Zach Nunn, activist Gary Leffler and finance professional Nicole Hasso appeared in a televised debate Tuesday after the release of a U.S. Supreme Court draft suggesting federal abortion protections are poised to fall. The three candidates are vying to challenge incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, in November.

WHO-TV debate moderator Dave Price asked the candidates: “Should all abortions be illegal in this country? Hand up if you say yes.”

All three raised their hands.

“All abortions, no exceptions, should be illegal?” Price asked again. Hasso nodded as Nunn and Leffler kept their hands up.

Hasso shared the story of a miscarriage she experienced in 2002, about 12 weeks into her pregnancy.

“I gave birth to my son, who had 10 fingers, 10 toes. He had eyeballs,” she said. “And that was the hardest thing I had to do in life.”

Hasso said she would be “100% standing for life, from conception to the grave.”

“He is watching his momma right now, standing on this podium, fighting for every other child who is being murdered day after day after day,” Hasso said of her son.

Nunn acknowledged that women have a right to healthcare, but he said the life of an unborn child also needs to be protected. He said Iowa Republicans had taken action on the issue.

“When we look at what we have done in the statehouse, it’s not just about talking about it. It’s about doing things. And here in Iowa, we have led: We have led on the heartbeat bill and we have said no to late-term abortions in our state,” Nunn said.

Current Iowa law prohibits abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy. The heartbeat bill would have prevented abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which can occur about six weeks into a pregnancy — but the courts struck the law down in 2019.

Nunn criticized federal Democrats for considering a bill to codify Roe v. Wade, arguing it should be a states’ issue.

Leffler said the country will experience a “historical moment” if Roe falls. Iowa will still have state-level protections stemming from a 2018 Supreme Court decision, but lawmakers are moving to amend the state constitution to declare that the state does not recognize the right to an abortion. That constitutional amendment must pass another General Assembly before it appears on the ballot for Iowans to decide.

“Each individual state will determine what happens with this issue,” Leffler said. “For the first time, Iowans will have an opportunity to vote on this and let the will of the people be made known.”

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll from September 2021 found 57% Iowans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Just 13% responded that abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Incumbent Axne criticized the decision draft on Tuesday. She called on the Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, the bill that would protect the precedent of Roe v. Wade in law.

“Women have been empowered to make their own decisions about their bodies and reproductive rights for nearly half a century, and I will not stand idly by and let decades of progress slip away,” Axne said.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.