DES MOINES — Abortion policy was a key discussion point as a group of G-O-P presidential candidates addressed 1200 conservative Iowa Republicans this weekend in Des Moines. 

All 10 candidates were interviewed on stage at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s fall fundraiser. The group’s national chairman asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis if he’d support federal legislation that would ban abortions nationwide after the 15th week of a pregnancy. “I think the states have done the better job thus far…Congress has really struggled to make a meaningful impact over the years,” DeSantis said. “As president, I’m going to welcome pro-life policies across the board, at both levels.”

Former South Carolina Nikki Haley says passing any federal law requires 60 votes in the U-S Senate and it’s been 100 years since Republicans occupied 60 Senate seats, so she’d focus on things like promoting adoption and a ban on late term abortions. “I’m going to fight on the side of life every chance I get,” Haley said, “but I’m not going to demonize people in the process.”

Former President Donald Trump, who did not attend the event, said in an interview that aired on N-B-C’s “Meet the Press” that he’d negotiate something that’s acceptable to both sides on the abortion issue.

Former Vice President Mike Pence offered this rebuttal Saturday night. “The right to life has been the core of our movement in the last 50 years…but my former running mate and other candidates in this issue want to relegate that issue to the states only,” Pence said, “but I won’t have it.” Pence backs a national 15 week abortion ban.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird interviewed businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, but she did not ask either about a national abortion ban. Scott like several of the candidates, suggested ways to support pregnant women.  “One of the things I’d like to do is provide tax beneifts once a woman gets pregnant because we should be pro-life from the moment of conception until birth,” Scott says, “and then beyond as well.” Ramaswamy has previously expressed support for state abortion restrictions, including six week abortion bans, but opposes a federal law.

Two of the leading candidates were asked about Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions, to pressure the Pentagon over its coverage of expenses for servicemembers who travel across state lines for an abortion. Haley, who’s husband recently deployed to Afghanistan, says as president she’d never allow tax dollars to be used for anything related to an abortion, but she says blocking more than 300 military promotions is wrong.  “These military men and women and their families sacrifice enough,” Haley said. “Don’t use them as political pawns.”

DeSantis says the Pentagon’s policy belongs in the trash can and he supports Tuberville’s effort.  “What the Defense Department is doing is outside the law,” DeSantis said. “They are violating the law by funding abortion tourism with tax dollars.”

DeSantis held a God Above Government Rally at a Des Moines church Saturday afternoon and announced a group of Iowa pastors had endorsed his presidential bid. On Saturday morning, DeSantis campaigned in Red Oak alongside Senator Joni Ernst. DeSantis pledged to more effectively deal with illegal immigration.  “The thing that I’m willing to do that other presidents have not been willing to do or even these other candidates — we are going to hold the Mexican drug cartel accountable for what they are doing to our people,” DeSantis said. “…We will use deadly force against the Mexican drug cartels.”

DeSantis, who is 45, told the crowd that ages of President Biden and former President Trump are a concern.  “Father Time is undefeated. Father Time just simply works his will. That’s the reality of the situation,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis says the founding fathers established 35 as the minimum age for the presidency and, if they were to witness American politics today, DeSantis predicts they’d travel back in time to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and set a maximum age limit as well.