Gov. Reynolds avoids answering questions about whether she would support banning abortion ‘without exceptions’

Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Gov. Kim Reynolds avoided giving a direct answer about whether she wants to outlaw abortions without any exceptions on Wednesday afternoon. As Reynolds was exiting a meeting in Marion’s Thomas Park, KCRG reporter Ethan Stein asked about her abortion stance.

“Do you want the legislature to send you a bill that would ban abortion in Iowa with no exceptions, if Roe is reversed?” Stein asked.

“You know, thank you for being here and thank you for asking me about that,” the governor replied. “I am pro-life, I am proud to be. I am going to do everything I can to defend the unborn, who can’t defend themselves. And so I’ve been pretty clear on where I stand on pro-life issues and I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Reynolds routinely repeats pro-life platitudes, but has never been clear about whether she would push for a law that requires pregnant Iowans to give birth, regardless of any circumstances. And she wasn’t clear on Wednesday.

As Stein tried to get the governor to answer his question with a yes or no, she walked away.

Reynolds also avoided being specific regarding her anti-abortion plans when speaking to reporters after a National Day of Prayer event at the Iowa State Capitol. During her prepared remarks before the religious crowd gathered in the Capitol’s rotunda, Reynolds called the leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito “a glimmer of light [that] broke through the darkness in the form of an early indication that the court is prepared to undo this fatal mistake” of recognizing a constitutionally protected right to privacy that includes the right to choose an abortion.

Asked by reporters if she would call for a special session to have legislators pass a bill on abortion after the Supreme Court issues its opinion, Reynolds replied, “Let’s take one thing at a time.”

In response to a specific question about where she would support any exemptions in a ban on abortions, the governor repeated her line about doing “everything I can to protect the unborn.”

Reproductive rights supporters march at Cowles Commons. Wednesday, May 4, 2022. — Britt Fowler/Little Village

Such evasiveness when it comes to an issue opposed by large numbers of Iowans is standard practice for Reynolds, even when her position on the issue is otherwise clear. For example, Reynolds spent the weeks leading up to her signing a six-week abortion restriction into law claiming not to have had the time to review what would have been the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country. That claim wasn’t credible, but the governor continued to repeat it. (The law was struck down as a violation of constitutional rights. Such bans are often referred to as “fetal heartbeat” bills, though reproductive health specialists say a six-week embryo does not have a heartbeat, nor a heart, nor is it yet a fetus. The heart typically doesn’t appear for another 10 to 12 weeks.)

Reynolds was in Marion on Wednesday to promote her school voucher bill that would divert funds from public schools to people who want to use it to pay private school tuition. Marion has been a focus of activists in favor of vouchers recently, because the Linn-Mar Community School District adopted a support policy for transgender students last month.

The five-page policy was adopted at the district school board’s April 25 meeting by a vote of 5 to 2. The policy addresses accommodating the needs of students on matters of gender, and makes a distinction between teenagers and younger students.

Communication with the student and/or parent/guardian is key. Schools should make a case-by-case determination about appropriate arrangements for transgender students regarding names/pronouns, restroom and locker facilities, overnight accommodations on school trips, and participation in activities. These arrangements should be based on the student’s or family’s wishes, be minimally burdensome, and be appropriate under the circumstances.

Any student in seventh grade or older will have priority of their support plan over their parent/guardian. All supports can be documented in a Gender Support Plan.

Board President Brittania Morey said in a Facebook post following the vote on the policies that “these policies do not change procedure, they simply put into policy for easy reference how these laws are followed within the district.” Morey explained the board felt it was necessary to clarify the district’s approach because of the apparent conflict between federal civil rights law and the ban on transgender girls participating in girls’ school sports.

The governor told Stein she came to Marion to listen to parents “in an environment in which they felt comfortable sharing what was important to them.”

That comfortable environment was behind closed doors in the basement of the administrative and operations facility in Thomas Park. No reporters were permitted into the meeting. The meeting was not listed on the governor’s schedule of public activities for the week, and her office did not inform the media she would be in Linn County. Reynolds also did not inform the Linn-Mar School Board of her visit.

According to Morey, she had no idea the governor was holding a meeting in Marion. Matt Rollinger, one of the two board members to vote against the gender support policy, attended the two-hour meeting, but declined to speak to reporters after it.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, the first-term Republican who represents Linn County in Congress, also attended the meeting. Hinson, who is running for reelection, is opposed to the district’s gender support policy.

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