Fact Check | The facts about Iowa’s 2nd District congressional candidates and abortion


Gabby Drees and Matt Sindt

Democratic candidate Liz Mathis and U.S. Rep Ashley Hinson speaking at various political events on Sept. 3 and Aug. 28 respectively.

Liam Halawith, Politics Reporter

PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.

If your time is short: 

  • U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson and state Sen. Liz Mathis have accused each other on Twitter and in campaign commercials of lying about each other’s views on abortion. 
  • Hinson says she supports exceptions to abortion bans for incest, rape and the life of the mother, but her voting record includes co-sponsoring a federal bill that outlaws all abortions without exceptions, but also a state bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. 
  • Mathis has said she supports the Women’s Health Protection Act. Many Republicans have claimed the act would allow abortions up to and even after birth – a claim PolitiFact has determined is mostly false. 

Those who have followed the near 50-year aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the United States, know the ruling never settled the highly contentious topic of legal abortion.

The 2022 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – extended the arguing on the personal and political levels.

Iowa’s newly drawn 2nd District congressional race has been particularly contentious with candidates U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, the Republican incumbent, and state Sen. Liz Mathis, the Democratic challenger in the race, sparring on Twitter. 

On Sept. 24, Mathis posted a campaign commercial criticizing Hinson for her support of a national abortion ban, referring to the Life at Conception Act, a bill that would define personhood to include fetuses and embryos and effectively ban all abortions. Hinson co-sponsored the bill.

“There is nothing more sacred than making decisions about your own body and healthcare, but Ashley Hinson wants to take that right from Iowa women and give it to politicians,” the ad stated. “Victims of violent crime and even dying women would have no choice because Ashley Hinson decided for them.” 

Hinson lashed back, in a tweet later that day: “This is a lie. I’m unapologetically pro-life and I’ll keep working to save as many lives as possible,” she wrote.

Hinson wrote that she supports exceptions to the bill for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Hinson also said that Mathis is the extreme one, supporting “elective abortion up until birth.”

Hinson is referring to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which Mathis’ campaign confirms she supports. The legislation has received a lot of scrutiny from Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the incumbent for Iowa’s newly drawn 1st Congressional district, for allowing abortion until birth. However, that’s not entirely accurate.

The Women’s Health Protection Act allows any abortions up to when the fetus can survive outside the uterus, which is typically 24 weeks, sources PolitiFact has interviewed previously said. An abortion is permitted after the point of viability, but only, “when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health,” the act states.

Iowa has been a particularly ripe battlefield for the issue, with conservatives in the state passing a fetal heartbeat bill in 2018. That law outlawed abortions after six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother but was later struck down in Polk County District Court

Because of the legal activity and their time in public service, Hinson and Mathis have voting records, which we examined.

Where do they really stand? 

Mathis’ campaign wrote in an email to PolitiFact Iowa that Mathis supports codifying Roe v. Wade in the Women’s Health Protection Act and other bills that support reproductive freedom, including the Ensuring Abortion Access Act, which would prevent someone who is pregnant from being prosecuted for crossing state lines to get an abortion, and Right to Contraception Act, which would widen access to birth control and contraceptives. 

In the Iowa Senate, Mathis voted against a fetal heartbeat bill and against a resolution that would adopt an amendment to the state’s Constitution barring public funds being used to provide abortions. 

“In Congress, I will vote to codify Roe and protect Iowans’ reproductive freedoms,” Mathis stated in a press release from her campaign.

Hinson is a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act that would ban all abortions in the United States but does not have exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s life. The bill accomplishes this by defining personhood to include fetuses and embryos. 

Hinson also was a co-sponsor of a few other bills relating to abortions. They are:

The pain-capable bill allows exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. Doctors who perform these abortions would have to comply with specific requirements including providing the abortion in a manner that would be most compatible with the fetus surviving and having a doctor trained in neo-natal resuscitation be present. 

“In reasonable medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including psychological or emotional conditions,” the bill reads. 

The bill includes provisions specifying pregnant people may not be prosecuted for obtaining or attempting to obtain an abortion. Hinson also is a co-sponsor for a newer version of the bill that moved the limit to 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Hinson is a co-sponsor of a few bills aimed at preventing abortions based on characteristics of the fetus. They include a bill named Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act, which prohibits pregnant people from getting an abortion if their fetus has Down syndrome, and PRENDA Act of 2022 which makes abortions based on the sex of the fetus illegal. These bills currently sit in committee. 

Hinson has introduced her own bill named the Providing for Life Act which would extend the child tax credit to unborn children. It would require a child’s biological father to pay 50% of a pregnant person’s childbirth-related costs and educational material and counseling about the risks to be provided to people seeking an abortion. 

“Congresswoman Hinson is pro-life and will continue championing pro-life policies in Congress,” Sophie Crowell, Hinson’s campaign manager, wrote in an email to PolitiFact Iowa. “Including ensuring taxpayer dollars don’t fund abortion, improving access to maternal care, and standing against Democrats’ radical abortion agenda.”

Our sources

Email exchange with Sophie Crowell, Ashley Hinson’s campaign manager. 

Email exchange with Lori Davis, Liz Mathis’ communications advisor. 

An email press release from Liz Mathis’ campaign. 

State of Iowa Senate Journal for May 1, 2018. 

A tweet by Ashley Hinson on Sept. 24, 2022. 

A tweet by Liz Mathis on Sept. 24, 2022. 

The bill text for the Fetal Heartbeat bill on Legis.iowa.gov

The bill page for the Life at Conception act on Congress.gov. 

The bill page for the Women’s Health Protection act on Congress.gov. 

The bill page for the Ensuring Access to Abortion act on Congress.gov. 

The bill page for the Right to Contraception act on Congress.gov.

G.H. Breborowicz, “Limits of fetal viability and its enhancement,” Early Pregnancy (Cherry Hill); Jan. 5, 2001

Associated Press, “Judge declares Iowa fetal heartbeat law unconstitutional,” by David Pitt Jan. 22, 2019. 

A PDF version of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. 

Politifact, “Fact-checking Rep. Miller-Meeks claims that Democratic bill would allow abortion up until birth,” by Lyle Muller and Nina Baker Aug. 1, 2022

KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), “Abortions Later in Pregnancy,” Dec. 5, 2019

Iowa Senate Journal for April 6, 2021. 

The bill page for No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2021

The bill page for Abortion Providers Loan Elimination Act

U.S. Small Business Association, Paycheck Protection Program page

The bill page for the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act

The bill page for the Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act

The bill page for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

The bill page for the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act

The bill page for the Providing for Life Act