Republican Senate candidate stands by Personhood
Iowa Republican candidate for Senate, Joni Ernst, voted for a personhood amendment to her state's constitution in 2013 as a state senator – and she appears to stand by her vote and the concept of personhood in a new video.
In an interview recorded by the Sioux City Journal, Ernst was asked "how far" she "would be willing to go" with regards to supporting a personhood amendment if she is elected to the U.S. Senate. Reporters also asked about her support for the Life Begins at Conception Act, which has been described as a national personhood bill.
Ernst answered: "I do believe in protecting life. And I do believe that most Iowans do believe in protecting life. And, so, I will continue to stand by that. I am a pro-life candidate, and this has been shaped by my religious beliefs through the years. So I support that."
She then said that passing a federal constitutional amendment requires "consensus," including the necessary two-thirds of both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures required for ratification, and that the support does not exist.
Ernst's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about whether she would co-sponsor personhood legislation as a U.S. Senator, whether she supports any exceptions to her self-described "pro-life candidate" positions, and whether finding and creating consensus for a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be a priority should she beat Braley.
Ernst was also challenged on her personhood vote and her position on birth control in a recent debate with her opponent, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. Pressed by the debate moderator Ernst said that she that "there would be certain exceptions" as to when she could support abortion. "Going back to perhaps the life of the mother, I think that would be important."
Braley, who has run ads attacking Ernst's vote, challenged her in a prior debate about the personhood vote, which the Republican said "is simply a statement that I support life." He has also said that her vote would ban contraceptives, to which Ernst said that "[w]hen it does come to a woman's access to contraception, I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception."
"That's something that Congressman Braley has been trying to mislead our women voters on," she said in the September debate.
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Many Democratic candidates and allied groups have claimed personhood amendments would ban contraceptives. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who is in a tight race with incumbent Mark Udall, backed off his support for personhood legislation and proposed making birth control available over the counter, perhaps in part as a response to attacks similar to those leveled against Ernst.
Personhood advocates are quick to point out that, applied in the most extreme way, their amendment would only affect abortifacients, which cause abortions, while access to contraceptives -- which prevent a pregnancy from occurring -- would be unimpeded.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, the Senate race in Iowa is extremely close. Ernst is leading Braley by one to three points, well within the margin of error.