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Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

October 21, 2014 — Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The race between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is the tightest in the country that does not involve an incumbent, according to the AP/Huffington Post. Polls show Braley has more support from women, while Ernst has greater support from men.

Final Debate

In their final debate last week, Ernst defended her belief that life begins at conception and her opposition to abortion rights, but she said for the first time that she would consider supporting a right to abortion to save a woman's life. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has criticized Ernst for her opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

Ernst also backs a constitutional "personhood" amendment, which Braley and abortion-rights supporters say could ban abortions, some contraceptives and in vitro fertilization.

At the debate, Braley also criticized Ernst for agreeing with the Supreme Court's decision to allow some private employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that their health plans include contraceptive coverage. Ernst has said she supports access to birth control.

Braley said her stances are inconsistent. "You can't say you support that right and then say it's OK for employers to interfere with it," he said.

Braley supports abortion rights but said he does not support abortion later in pregnancy, except to protect the woman's life or health. He did not specify the point in pregnancy to which he was referring (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 10/17).