The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

GOP presidential hopefuls talk abortion at evangelical town hall on Saturday

Evangelical Christians make up a large portion of the conservative voting block in Iowa, making them an appealing voter block for hopefuls.
Isabella Tisdale
Mike Pence speaks during the Faith and Freedom Presidential Town Hall at the Iowa Events Center on Sept. 16, 2023. The event had ten Republican candidates speak for a crowd of over 1,000. Pence highlighted issues like his stance on abortion and the banning of gender affirming care.

Republican presidential hopefuls talked faith and Christianity during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s fall banquet on Saturday. Evangelical Christians make up 37 percent of Iowa Republicans, according to a Pew Research poll, giving them considerable influence over elections in Iowa.

A gamut of presidential hopefuls made an appearance at the event on Saturday, with 10 GOP hopefuls present at the Iowa Event Center in Des Moines. Over 1,000 people were in attendance and hopefuls answered questions from the organization’s founder and chairman Ralph Reed.

Candidates in attendance included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, former Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed the organization in the past, did not attend the event Saturday night.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds opened the event, touting her achievements as governor including the recent passing of a near-total abortion ban.

“There is simply nothing that compares to the energy and passion of so many faithful patriots all gathered in one place to fight for the values that make this country great,” Reynolds said. “Like our founders, this organization understands … God is the very foundation of our freedom, making us strong, resilient, and confident in the defense of those rights.”

About 25 state and federal representatives also attended the event, including Iowa Republican U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson, Zach Nunn, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

Each candidate was given about 10 minutes to address a wide span of issues including abortion bans, foreign policy in the Middle East, economic policy, and religious liberty.

Candidates talk abortion policy

The slew of 10 candidates touted their anti-abortion views at the banquet. DeSantis was the first candidate of the night to take the stage, comparing the success of Florida’s anti-abortion policies to Iowa’s.

“Iowa has been able to move the ball with pro-life protections [and] Florida has been able to move the ball,” DeSantis said. “I think the states have done a better job thus far. Congress has really struggled to make a meaningful impact over the years.”

In tears, Johnson expressed his pro-life stance. Johnson said to the Faith and Free Coalition crowd his belief that there is nothing more beautiful in life than an unborn child.

“I believe life begins at conception, so what people have to understand is that there is nothing that is more beautiful in this world than young life,” Johnson said. “The greatest joy in my life are my kids.”

Elder, presidential candidate and host of the radio talk show “The Larry Elder Show,” is very certain about his anti-abortion stance. Elder expressed his approval of crisis pregnancy centers and other support for expecting mothers.

“There are literally thousands of pregnancy centers all over America where women are provided counseling, job training, doctor services, housing, and education,” Elder said. “We are stepping up so people who are so-called crisis pregnancy centers have all kinds of options.”

Pence, who Reed dubbed as the “most pro-life vice president” in the U.S., said his work in Congress laid the foundation for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

“I want to thank the people of Iowa for the privilege of serving as your vice president,” Pence said to the crowd. “It was the greatest honor of my life to have been a part of the administration that appointed three of the justices that sent Roe vs. Wade in the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

Scott, who previously stated he supported a 20-week federal abortion ban, connected his family values to being a pro-life candidate.

“We need to make sure that we protect adoption in crisis pregnancy centers so that we have the kind of funding for those organizations that protect and promote life,” he said.

Kristi Judkins, executive director of Iowa Right to Life — also in attendance on Saturday — said all of the candidates have represented the pro-life movement well thus far in the caucus cycle.

“We’re not too naive to understand that there are adversaries out there that would disagree with us, but I feel like what I’ve seen from the candidates is they’ve had that kind of non-adversarial kind of approach,” Judkins told The Daily Iowan.

Judkins said although she supports a federal ban on abortion, it’s not the most realistic route for the nominee to take.

“Right now, we stand by states’ rights and that’s what we’ve been working for as part of a

coalition of pro-life leaders,” she said.

Haley stood in contrast with the strong anti-abortion views of the other candidates who took the stage that night.

At the first GOP presidential debate, Haley made it clear she believed federal abortion bans were unrealistic.

“I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice any more than I want them to judge me for being pro-life,” Haley said on Saturday. “So when we look at this situation, we finally took it from unelected justices and put it back in the hands of the people. That’s where it should be.”

Everyone has a story, Haley said; rather than demonizing women, they should be supported.

“I just want us to have a good conversation on how to save as many babies as we can and support as many moms as we can,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Grace Katzer, Politics Reporter
Grace Katzer is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications, Political Science, and a writing certificate. Previous to her position as a politics reporter, she has been a higher education news reporter at The Daily Iowan and interned with the Spencer Daily Reporter as a news reporter and Iowa Starting Line as a news media reporter.
Natalie Miller, Politics Reporter
Natalie Miller is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her position as a Politics Reporter, Natalie was a News Reporter focusing on Higher Education.
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.