State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks on the floor of the Iowa Senate at the start of the 2020 legislative session. (Photo Source: Miller-Meeks Campaign’s Facebook page)

DES MOINES, Iowa – A video from 2018 surfaced that shows now State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks telling voters, “I am pro-choice,” and said that abortion is a decision “best left to providers, to doctors, and to patients.”

She has run her 2020 congressional campaign in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District on a pro-life platform. Her campaign said she misspoke, but her main primary opponent in the Republican primary said this wasn’t the first time she identified herself as pro-choice.

On May 31, 2018, during a forum hosted by the Ottumwa League of Women’s Voters for Republicans seeking the nomination in Iowa Senate District 41, Miller-Meeks and her primary opponent, Daniel Cesar, were asked whether hey would repeal the fetal heartbeat abortion ban that passed in the 2018 legislative session and was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.  

“This is probably something that’s going to be challenged by the Iowa Supreme Court, and we’ll go forward, whether or not it will be upheld, we’ll know in the near future. And will it be a costly endeavor? Yes, it will. But sometimes when it comes to issues that are extremely challenging, that are controversial, and that create tremendous animosity on both sides, it is best that that be challenged, be brought up legislatively, have the people decide. And then if it’s challenging the court system, I think that offers resolution to people on both sides of the issue,” she said.

“It’s difficult as a woman to face this issue. I’m also Catholic, I am pro-choice, but it’s a very sensitive issue. And when Roe v Wade was decided and even since that time, we have not done a favor to women. There are women who have had abortions who regret that they’ve had abortions and don’t know where to seek solace or help or support. And there are women who are caught in an untenable situation, that they’re looking for guidance and a resolution to their situation and the best thing for the day and their family to do,” Miller-Meeks answered. 

“Ultimately, as a doctor and a health care provider. I think these are decisions that are best left to providers, to doctors, and to patients. I don’t want the government in my health care decisions. And I think that that’s why it’s a good thing to bring it up and to be challenged. But it is a very personal issue. When I talk to people, I can tell you, women may support it or not supported, but they don’t think that abortion should be used as birth control. We need to continue to educate; we need to make sure that young women have available resources, both for birth control and the educational wherewithal to be able to prevent pregnancy,” she concluded. 

Miller-Meeks’ campaign said that she “misspoke.”

“Senator Miller-Meeks was speaking to the point that she is a pro-life Catholic when it came to her mind that some notable Catholic elected leaders are pro-choice. That prompted her to misspeak,” Eric Woolson, spokesperson for the campaign told Caffeinated Thoughts. “As a physician, she was emphasizing her belief that, regardless of the medical condition being discussed, doctor-patient conversations need to be private and free of government intervention. All doctor-patient dialogue is, and should remain private.” 

Woolson said that her voting record as a state senator is more important than her “misspeaking at an event.”

“Every time Senator Miller-Meeks has had an opportunity to vote on a pro-life issue, she voted yes. One-hundred percent of the time. That includes her 2019 support of a pro-life amendment to the Iowa Constitution and being the only woman senator to stand up this legislative session in favor of that same pro-life amendment. She also voted for the budget to defund Planned Parenthood and for other pro-life measures,” he added.

“Votes are what counts. Votes create the law of the land, and Senator Miller-Meeks’ votes have always been in support of life. There is no contesting that fact,” Woolson concluded. 

Her main primary opponent, former U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, criticized her 2018 remarks and her campaign’s response. 

“I was hoping that this would be an opportunity for Mariannette Miller-Meeks to come clean with the voters about her refusal to support protections for unborn children at 20 weeks and when a heartbeat is detected. Instead, she did what she’s done for the last 12 years of her failed campaigning – she continued trying to deceive voters,” Schilling told Caffeinated Thoughts

“She has said many times that she’s pro-choice – which is why Iowa Right to Life dubbed her ‘The Great Pretender.’ To claim that she ‘misspoke’ is incredibly insulting to voters. She was crystal clear – she’s Catholic and pro-choice, and she doesn’t think government should be involved in protecting unborn children,” he added.

“I have faith in Iowa voters that they will see through her fourth attempt to fool them – only this time she will lose the primary instead of the general election,” Schilling stated. 

Pro-life activists have not backed her campaign in the past. 

In 2008, during her first run for Congress, Iowa Right to Life did not endorse Miller-Meeks because she did not turn in a survey sent to all state and federal candidates. Kim Lehman, executive director of Iowa Right to Life at the time who also was Iowa’s National Republican Committeewoman, questioned her pro-life credentials. Lehman was roundly criticized by several Republicans in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, including the current Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, for not backing the Republican nominee.

In 2014, Iowa Right to Life under the leadership of executive director Jenifer Bowen left her off their list of preferred candidates as well. In 2018, Bowen leading Life Right Action did not endorse her candidacy in Iowa Senate District 41.

This instance is not the first time her campaign said she misspoke on the issue of life. 

Caffeinated Thoughts during a podcast interview on December 3, 2019, asked her to address pro-life activists’ past skepticism.

“Well, I think my record on this has been very clear. I’ve been vetted numerous times. I have been endorsed by Susan B. Anthony. I have been endorsed by Maggie’s List. I am pro-life. I am Catholic. Just my personal life, my children did Teenagers-in-Action in Preventing Pregnancy when they were in high school,” Miller-Meeks said.

Caffeinated Thoughts confirmed with Susan B. Anthony List that their group never endorsed her in any previous election. The only congressional candidate they have supported in Iowa this cycle to date is State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District race.

Campaign spokesman Eric Woolson told Caffeinated Thoughts at the time that Miller-Meeks misspoke, that she had filled out a survey of theirs in the past, and that is why the group came to mind during the interview.

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