Anti-Abortion Takes Spotlight at Freedom and Faith Coalition Banquet
In a critical time for Republican candidates to visit Iowa, this Saturday’s Faith and Freedom Coalition had its annual family banquet and presidential forum. This year’s dinner was an especially interesting one for caucusgoers because of the high volume of candidate attendees. Special GOP guests of the Freedom and Faith coalition included candidates Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz. Absent candidates, such as Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, pre-recorded videos to be shown during the event. One common theme throughout the various candidate speeches was anti-abortion.
The Planned Parenthood debate has hit the main stage here in Iowa. This is not a new topic of discussion between Republican and Democratic Party members. However, the recent video release of a Planned Parenthood physician discussing the distribution of fetal tissue and abortion procedures has hit a sensitive nerve in GOP presidential candidates.
There may be a plethora of candidates, but they all happen to share a similar agenda — defunding Planned Parenthood.
Though the GOP strives to defund the organization in order to prevent future abortions, according to Planned Parenthood, only 3 percent of its offered health services are abortion services. The remainder of the funding goes to services such as STD/STI prevention and treatment, cancer screening and prevention, as well as contraceptives. Yet, the GOP presidential candidates remain adamant and determined to make their anti-abortion position heard.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted its event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, home to the famous Iowa State Fair. Passionate Iowa Republicans turned out to support their candidate of choice and jumped around to different campaign booths gathering stickers and posters. Stationed next to Pataki’s stand was the Iowa Right to Life organization, proudly representing its cause.
IRTL is a statewide organization that has been around for decades and pushes educational outreach on abortion in a non-confrontational manner. In an exclusive interview Jenifer Bowen, Executive Director of IRTL, said the organization aims to “empower women to make an informed choice.”
When asked which candidate’s speech resonated most with IRTL, Bowen responded, “It’s very difficult to be able to say this is the guy or this is the girl because there are so many strong contenders.” The profusion of pro-life advocates in the presidential race has brought the issue of anti-abortion to the forefront for Iowa voters.
IRTL equips their supporters with a pro-life plank for them to put forward at their caucuses. “When it is time to present the planks after everyone does the voting, that’s kind of the nuts and bolts of what a caucus is about,” Bowen said. “We encourage people to put the pro-life plank forward for the Republican Party.”
The caucuses serve to be a great way for IRTL, as well as candidates in both parties, to communicate their message to voters. However, Republican contestants struggle to differentiate themselves on the topic of abortion. In this abnormally large playing field, it is difficult to tell how strongly each individual feels on what has become a predominate issue this caucus season.