Grassley confirms he wouldn’t vote for a national abortion ban during a debate Thursday

Franken and Grassley spared during their debate Thursday night. Discussing abortion, marijuana legalization, and Franken’s sexual assault allegations.

Liam Halawith, Politics Reporter

Iowa’s candidates for the U.S. Senate race sparred over their sharp ideological differences on the Iowa PBS stage on Thursday night. 

With the balance of power in the U.S. Congress in play this midterm season, the race has been seen as a possible tipping point to change power in the Senate to a Republican majority or retain a Democratic majority and add one more vote to the Democrats’ power in the Senate. 

The race between the longest serving Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and his Democratic challenger Admiral Mike Franken is considered the closest Grassley has come to losing an election since his first election to the U.S. Senate in 1980, with an internal poll by Franken’s campaign showing him within four points of Grassley in early September. 


Abortion and reproductive rights were on the agenda during Thursday night’s live debate. After the Supreme Court struck down the landmark case Roe v. Wade in June, the issue became a common topic for candidates. 

Franken expressed his support for reproductive freedom during the debate. He said reproductive rights should be left to patients and medical professionals. 

“Well, the short of it is this is the most private, personal time in a woman’s life. We should have the government stepping in to determine when viability exists, etc,” Franken said. “The doctor knows this and the woman knows this. This is not something for the government to step in and make those determinations.” 

Grassley voiced his views against abortion during the debate, but said the issue was up to state legislature’s to decide — a position he has taken since the precedent was overturned in June. Grassley said he is, “Pro-Life, Pro-Mother, and Pro-Family.” 

Grassley criticized Franken, saying Franken supports abortion’s up until birth. 

“He has the most extreme position on abortion that you can have and he wants abortion to be available till the last minute of birth,” Grassley said. 

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Grassley is referring to Franken’s support for the Women’s Health Protection Act. Republicans have said the bill would allow abortion up until birth like Grassley claimed. The bill would allow abortion until the fetus is viable outside of the womb which is typically 24 weeks. The bill does allow an exception to this rule, if a mother’s life is in danger. 

Franken pointed out this occurrence is often rare, and the decision is not made lightly. 

“​​This is the most personal time of all. The names have been chosen, the room has been painted, the cradle has been bought,  gifts have been made, cards have been sent out,” Franken said. “Then if a malady happens, a mother’s life is in danger.” 

When asked by the debate moderators if Grassley would vote for a national abortion ban, Grassley said he would not vote for a ban. 

Grassley has previously dodged the question prior to the debate, instead he said he would leave it up to the states to decide on the topic. 

Franken’s assault allegations 

During the debate, the moderators brought up Franken’s recent allegations of assault against a former campaign staff member. 

Franken was accused of assault by his former campaign manager Kimberly Strope-Boggus, which Franken has denied. The allegations were brought to light after a copy of a Des Moines police report filed by Strope-Boggus was obtained by the Iowa Field Report a conservative online publication. 

The police report found the allegations were unfounded and no charges were filed in the case. 

RELATED: Grassley says he won’t center Franken allegations, Grassley Works calls for accuser’s release from NDA

Franken criticized Grassley for using the allegations against him as a political tool. Grassley’s campaign manager called for Franken to answer for the allegations and to release his former campaign staffer from an Non-Disclosure Agreement that was mentioned in the police report. 

Franken’s campaign has said Strope-Boggus is not bound by a non-disclosure agreement. 

“But what’s particularly annoying about this issue is I also have zero tolerance for the politicalization of this issue and how my opponent has taken this, as I speculate of his age and seniority and time in the Senate to use this as a tool. And what he’s weaponizing women’s rights,” Franken said during the debate on Thursday. 

Legalizing Marijuana

Grassley also said during the debate he would support exceptions to an abortion ban that include rape, incest, and the life of the mother. 

President Joe Biden announced his plan on Thursday to pardon all federal inmates convicted of marijuanna possession.  He also declared the administration would review the scheduling of the drug as a schedule one drug – where LSD and heroin are assigned– and examine assigning it to another category. 

Franken expressed his support for the legalization of marijuana on the federal level.

This will compel states to all get on board because this is a drug, recreational or otherwise, which will decrease the cost of some pharmaceuticals, provide people alternatives. It’s a known quantity to be net value from a medical perspective,” Franken said. “And I anticipate that the lack of reduction and criminality associated with keeping it as a category one will have a great impact in terms of reducing the amount of crime let alone how this has been rather unsettled in terms of its application to minorities.” 

Grassley said Biden has the constitutional authority to pardon the federal inmates convicted on marijuana possession. Grassley said the issue with pardoning those inmates is that often marijuana possession is accompanied with other crimes and often in plea deals larger crimes are negotiated to possession charges. 

Grassley pointed to his work with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, on sentencing reform as a better solution for the issue. 

Grassley then took the topic in another direction, pointing to his opinion on how Biden has handled the border. Grassley pointed out the increase in counterfeit Fentanyl coming across the border as an example of a failure on Biden’s part. 

“We have to control the border not just for marijuana but for fentanyl that killed 270,000 Americans and with an open border,” Grassley said. “This stuff just comes into the country and just a little bit, half an ounce but just a little bit and a lot less will kill one person.” 

According to FiveThirtyEight, Grassley is still in the lead in the race and is likely to retain the seat this midterm. Grassley leads with eight points in the FiveThirtyEight prediction ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

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