GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson says he’d ‘defer to science’ in abortion pill access

By: - April 13, 2023 8:30 pm

Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson speaks with Iowans April 13, 2023 at VFW Post 9127in Des Moines. (Photo by Luke Clausen/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Amid multiple court rulings on access to medication abortions, Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said “we should always be deferring to science and make the best decisions on health care based on professional judgments.”

Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, was campaigning in central Iowa Thursday.

Federal judges in Texas and Washington last week gave opposing rulings on the question of access to mifepristone, a drug commonly used to end early-stage pregnancies. The Texas judge overturned a 23-year-old decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to authorize the use of the drug. A federal appeals judge ruled late Wednesday that access to the drug would continue but with restrictions.

Hutchinson said in an interview that it was appropriate for the court to review an administrative ruling like the one that put mifepristone on the market in 2000.  “It’s not unusual for a court to review an administrative ruling, this is the FDA and you’re looking at their scientific determinations of a drug,” he said. “… So it doesn’t bother me that they’re reviewing it.”

He also downplayed the effect of the courts on the issue. “Ultimately, I think this is an issue that while the courts will rule on it, the states are going to determine whether it’s permissible or not, regardless of what the courts say,” he said.

Hutchinson was governor of Arkansas from 2015-2023. He previously represented Arkansas’ 3rd District in the U.S. House from 1997-2001 before being appointed by President George W. Bush to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration and serve as undersecretary of Homeland Security for border and transportation security.

Hutchinson also discounted the importance of the abortion issue in the 2024 election.

“I think that the other issues that are going to be critically important are still the economy, it’s still the strength of our military and how we’re going to approach and counter China and their aggressiveness,” Hutchinson said. “So I don’t see [abortion] as an issue that’s going to hurt us long term.

“If you believe in the state’s prerogative, which the Dobbs decision gave us, then each state’s going to make their decision as to how they’re going to approach [abortion], which is the right way under our system of federalism,” he said.

Hutchinson said if  he were elected president, and a Republican House and Senate sent him a nationwide abortion ban bill, he “would want to look at the bill to see exactly what it does.”

“I’ve always signed pro-life bills that come to me… I certainly support the decisions of the states,” he said. “And my longtime position is that abortion should not be allowed except in three circumstances: in the life of the mother and in the cases of rape and incest.”

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen was a reporting intern with Iowa Capital Dispatch. He is a student at Drake University studying Multimedia Journalism, Magazine and Brand Media, and International Relations. Additionally, he helps to manage the Ambassador-in-Residence initiative at Drake with Ambassador Terry Branstad and Drake's Global Engagement team.