August 30, 2017

J.D. Scholten considers himself generally under the pro-choice rubric as a candidate on the position of abortion.

Which puts him at odds with staunchly pro-life Congressman Steve King, a Kiron Republican who has represented similarly unbending anti-abortion political territory in western and central Iowa for eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Abortion remains a defining question when it comes to values in our part of Iowa.

So this newspaper put some follow-up questions on abortion rights and laws to Scholten, a former minor league baseball player who moved back to Sioux City from Seattle, Washington, just a month before declaring his candidacy for Congress.

Are there situations and circumstances in which Scholten thinks a woman should be prohibited from obtaining an abortion?

“I find that tough to answer because the late-term abortions tend to be medical, like there’s something that was dangerous to the child or to the mother,” Scholten said in an interview with this newspaper.

That considered, when does Scholten think life begins for a human being?

“I can’t answer that,” Scholten said. “I don’t know.”

OK, let’s put it another way. If there were a pregnant woman in here right now, and I punched her in the stomach, would your response be, “Oh my God, you damaged her fetus!” — or would you be thinking, “Wow! He just killed a baby.”

“More the fetus,” Scholten said.

So when you see a woman who is clearly showing, you don’t see a baby, you see a fetus?

“Yeah, because I don’t ... First of all, my initial reaction would probably be to punch you,” Scholten said. “To be honest. But I’m not a violent person just you know — to be clear. The thing is, I’m not a medical doctor. So I don’t know when a child can survive and not survive.”

If you are not a medical doctor, and you are in doubt about when life begins, why doesn’t the benefit of the doubt rest with the baby rather than with a woman’s choice? You are in doubt about when life really begins, so if you don’t really know, a woman could be killing a baby. You don’t know because you don’t have a firm thought on when life begins.

“Right. But what I do have a firm belief is that the government shouldn’t be in the doctor’s office and stand between the woman and the doctor,” Scholten said.

We went down a similar line of questioning with one of Scholten’s Democratic primary opponents, Spencer City Councilwoman Leann Jacobsen, the operator, along with her husband, David, of Bear Coffeehouse and Wine Bar in the Clay County seat.

Jacobsen said she is broadly pro-choice on abortion, believing such decisions should be made by women in consultation with their physicians.

But, when we asked her, Jacobsen did not provide any details on whether she believes there are any circumstances in which women should be barred from legally obtaining an abortion — whether it is deep in late term, for the purpose of gender selection or to dispense with the disabled.

“Again, I would have to really look, I don’t have an answer to what you’re asking,” she said.

Let’s move to the Republicans.

A fair question to ask anti-abortion candidates is this: If your position on abortion prevails, and it is again prohibited, what should the penalty be for a woman who has an abortion and/or a provider who performs one?

Obviously, the actual answer matters, but what I also look for in the interview is something I can spot right away: has the pro-life candidate even considered the gravity of the issues, rolled them over as part of his or her worldview?

That speaks volumes about both ideological and intellectual depth.

One candidate who clearly had given this a great deal of thought before I asked it and embraced the question is King.

Some candidates who were thrown by it and didn’t seem to make the connection between the signs of the anti-abortion protesters and the potential outcome for women should Roe vs. Wade be overturned are Gov. Kim Reynolds and President Donald J. Trump. I asked them both in person, Reynolds at Pizza Ranch in Carroll during her first weeks in statewide politics and Donald Trump in Marshalltown, just days before the Iowa caucuses.

The Daily Times Herald asked Trump in that pre-election news conference what he believes the penalties should be for women who have abortions or physicians who perform them, should his current pro-life view prevail.

“I just don’t want to talk about that right now,” Trump said. “Everybody knows my views. And I think my views are very plain.”

He declined to call on the Times Herald for more questions following that.

Another big-picture question surrounds the rape exemption many politicians call for in abortion debates. Should motivation for the procreation really matter? Doesn’t a child conceived by violence, a rape, deserve the same status as one created through love? Does the motivation behind the intercourse have any bearing on how we define its results, whether it’s a baby or a fetus?

My take is that the rape exemption has no place in the debate. Motivation doesn’t matter. A baby is a baby or a fetus is a fetus. Just as children of illegal immigrants had no say in their residency in Texas, the life forms inside of pregnant women weren’t consulted before the act.

Whether you are the child of a rape or love you are the same.

Or are you?

Here is what we know: King sees babies where Jacobsen and Scholten see doubt.

That distinction matters in Iowa’s 4th District.

One has to wonder whether the two Democrats have deep enough roots here to understand that.