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In Des Moines News

Axne and Nunn clash on abortion in 3rd Congressional District debate

Lincoln Roch

Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D) and state Sen. Zach Nunn (R) faced off Thursday night in an hour-long debate hosted by local CBS affiliate KCCI. Throughout the debate, both candidates attacked their opponent in nearly every answer to moderators’ questions.

The issue of abortion access took up the biggest chunk of the debate, with candidates calling their opponents’ stances extreme. Axne made her pro-choice stance very clear while attacking Nunn for answers he made during a primary debate earlier this year.

“My opponent can slice or dice this however he wants. We saw him on stage in a primary debate questioned if he supported abortion when it came to cases of rape, [and] he said no,” Axne said. “When they asked him if he would support [abortion] in cases of incest, he said no to [abortions protecting] the mother’s life.”

Axne also brought up Nunn’s support for several bills throughout his tenure in the state Senate that banned abortion and did not provide protections for the mother’s health, rape or incest.

When asked to clarify his stance on the issue, Nunn referenced his vote on a 2018 state abortion ban. The bill was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court, but Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has asked the court to reimplement the ban following the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V. Wade.

“I support the mother and the baby, and we’ve voted repeatedly here in Iowa to provide exceptions for the health of the mother, something my opponents lied about repeatedly,” Nunn said. “We provide exceptions for rape, incest and fetal abnormalities.”

Nunn then attacked Axne for her vote this summer backing the Women’s Health Protection Act. He claimed her vote supported abortions up to the day of birth and would allow for “a taxpayer-funded execution of a child even when they are survivable.”

Before moderators moved on to other topics, Nunn stated Iowans should take a vote on the issue, while Axne purported that the mother should be the only person with a say in the abortion issue.

Candidates were then asked about President Biden’s executive order signed in August canceling up to $20,000 for student loan borrowers.

Nunn called the executive order illegal and argued the money the plan will cost the government should instead go towards funding trade schools. However, he supported Congress tackling the rising cost of college across the country.

“Absolutely Congress has a role in this, and I would also say there needs to be skin in the game from the universities involved,” Nunn said. “Most importantly, we need to make sure that those individuals that are taking out debt are doing so in a reasonable way where they can pay it back and not spend a lifetime debted out.”

Axne, who has been critical of Biden’s decision, praised some of the technical parts of his executive order regarding loan interests. Axne also agreed with Nunn on investing in trade school and apprentice programs.

School shootings have become a reality students have to face, and moderators asked the candidates for their solutions to decrease shootings.

“I think we have a responsibility to protect our kids, as well as to protect the second amendment,” Nunn said. 

Nunn also mentioned mental health support, school security and increasing the number of police officers. Regarding guns, he stated opposition to creating new gun control laws. 

Axne said she supported gun control measures like background checks, and asked voters to oppose a ballot measure Nunn supported in the Statehouse that would cement gun rights in the state constitution

“My children and all children in Iowa have gone through far too many active shooter drills in our schools,” Axne said. “We need to be reinstating the assault weapons ban that was taken off the books over a decade ago, and we know that will reduce mass shootings.”

Several Drake University students helped staff the event and were in the audience. 

The rest of the debate focused on topics including inflation, immigration, climate change, and the war in Ukraine. The audience stayed respectful throughout the debate, but several groans and scoffs were made in reaction to a few of both candidates’ claims about their opponent.

The entire debate can be found on the KCCI Youtube page.

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