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Presidential candidates discuss abortion and border control

Daniel Jacobi II
Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 23rd Annual Fall Banquet Presidential Town Hall on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Many of the presidential candidates for the Republican Party gathered at a Faith & Freedom Coalition event in Des Moines on Saturday night.

The Republican candidates at the event included:

  • Ryan Binkley
  • Ron DeSantis
  • Larry Elder
  • Nikki Haley
  • Will Hurd
  • Asa Hutchinson
  • Perry Johnson
  • Mike Pence
  • Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Tim Scott

Pro-life policy was a common topic for candidates throughout the night. Florida Gov. DeSantis focused on care for mothers post-birth and addressed the Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville blockages of military appointments due to a Biden Administration military abortion policy.

“I support what Tuberville is doing […] the Congress has to stand up and push back against it,” DeSantis said.

Former Gov. of South Carolina, Haley, was questioned about her lack of support for a federal abortion ban. She defended her decision with a pro-life position but the belief that a strict abortion ban would not be feasible federally, nor would it help unite Americans.

“I think the American people deserve the truth […] if you go and put these restrictions that make people demonize each other, I will not be a part of the demonizing,” Haley said.

Former Vice President Mike Pence was asked to respond to Haley’s criticism of his own commitment to passing pro-life legislation federally and the difficulty of getting a piece of legislation like that through the Senate.

“The right to life is the core of our movement […] I want to offer a vision to bring this country back based on our timeless principles,” Pence said.

Elder notably did not give support for a federal abortion ban and believes it should be a power left to the state’s decision.

Ramaswamy was confronted about a former statement he made about his opinion on aid for Israel and how he would cut down on it.

“Our relationship with Israel will be stronger by the end of my first term than it will have ever been,” Ramaswamy said.

He praised former president Donald Trump for his involvement with the Abraham Accords and discussed creating new and improved accords based on the former.

Former Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson emphasized border control and regulating immigration across the southern border.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds gives her opening remarks before the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 23rd Annual Fall Banquet Presidential Town Hall on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. (Daniel Jacobi II)

“We have to invest in our immigration system so that it works again,” Hutchinson said. “We need immigrants in our country and we value immigrants […] but we have to do it under the rule of law.”

Hutchinson also talked about Trump and his moderate stance on abortion. Hutchinson said one cannot please both sides and needs to approach the issue with compassion while standing in their convictions.

South Carolina Sen. Scott took a faith-based approach to many of the questions he was asked and addressed school choice changes that have been made in Iowa recently.

“I would take the model of Gov. Kim Reynolds […] and make it a nation-wide model […] I would put a target on the backs of the teachers unions,” Scott said.

Former Texas Rep. Hurd took a hard stance on voter security. He was asked about voting laws and worries of election integrity.

“First and foremost, have an ID to vote [..] we should be making sure that [voting] is free and secure,” Hurd said.

Johnson was emphatic about keeping government out of the lives of the people and encouraging traditional values.

“When you have a two parent household the impact is so stratospheric you can’t believe it […] we were founded on very basic values, we believe in freedom and they are taking away our freedom,” Johnson said to applause from throughout the room.

Binkley focused his remarks on freedom, faith, and ministry. He talked about the church he started and how he believed his Christian beliefs would lead him through his campaign. Religious freedom is of value to him and he wants to foster an environment of respect for religion rather than current declining religious values.

“God spoke to me to run because he wants to brighten that freedom up […] when we stand for freedom we are protected,” Binkley said.

Iowa Gov. Reynolds also addressed the crowd to rousing applause.

“Faith in God is the foundation to our freedom […] a bold self-confident faith is what this nation needs now more than ever,” Reynolds said.

She mentioned her conservative accomplishments including school choice laws, women’s sports protections, k-12 education reforms and the fetal heartbeat bill.

Iowa State Legislator Steven Holt was honored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition for his commitment to organization priorities and the changes that he has created in alignment with their beliefs from within Iowa’s Legislature.

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