Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King is facing a round of criticism following comments on abortion at a meeting Wednesday with a Des Moines-area conservative group. King asked how many people would be left in the world if abortion in cases of rape or incest was commonplace throughout history.
The comments came at a meeting of the Westside Conservative Club at the Machine Shed restaurant in Urbandale. King said he would continue to push for Congress to outlaw abortions after a heartbeat is detected, but said when Republicans controlled the House his proposal was held back by party leaders because it made no exception for rape or incest. King said he still wouldn’t make that exception.
“What if it was okay and what if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest?” King said. “Would there be any population of the world left if we did that, considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place?”
The comments were condemned by many, including Democratic presidential candidates and at least two of King’s Republican primary opponents.
"I am 100 % pro-life but Congressman King's bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause,” state senator and 4th District primary candidate Randy Feenstra said in a statement. “President Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions.”
King was removed from committee assignments earlier this year after being quoted by the New York Times asking when terms like white nationalist and Western civilization became offensive. King said he was misquoted, and that Democrats are “weaponizing” terms like white nationalist to target conservative Republicans.
At the meeting in Urbandale, King said he will stand by his conservative convictions on immigration, gun rights, and abortion as he seeks reelection in 2020. That includes continuing to call for funding to build a wall to try to stop migration across the southern border. King claimed that the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. could favor Democrats when district lines are redrawn following the 2020 census.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’ve introduced so many pieces of legislation to end birthright citizenship and amend the Constitution so we’re counting citizens instead of people,” King said.
Three primary candidates are challenging King in his reelection bid: Feenstra, Bret Richards, and Woodbury County supervisor Jeremy Taylor. Feenstra has raised more campaign money than King and recently won the endorsement of influential Christian conservative, Bob Vander Plaats. King said his position in the district is still strong, though, despite winning reelection last year by just 3.4 percentage points.
“Which I would point out to the folks that have been critical, that is a greater margin than Gov. (Kim) Reynolds won by in her broader statewide race and a greater margin than Ted Cruz won by in Texas,” he said. “Nobody’s saying to them that you’re vulnerable and that somehow we ought to find somebody to run against either one of them.”
Reynolds, a Republican, defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell by three points. Republicans hold a smaller registration advantage statewide than in the 4th District.
Democrat J.D. Scholten, who lost to King in 2018, is also running again for the 4th District seat.