State attorney generals have become increasingly politicized across the country. In Iowa, we can see the trend continuing in the race between Brenna Bird vs. Tom Miller.
As is often the case, abortion is the flashpoint. The question becomes: will the attorney general defend pro-life laws passed by the state’s legislature. In the case of Tom Miller, the answer is no.
The 78 year old Mr. Miller is the longest serving attorney general in the U.S. Although he originally ran as a pro-life candidate, he changed his views on abortion in the 1990s.
To that end, he refused to defend the state’s 24-hour waiting period for abortion in 2022 and the fetal heartbeat case in 2018. In a statement released on June 28, 2022, Miller defended his position:
“Our office is withdrawing from the case involving the 24-hour waiting period, or House File 594, for ethical reasons. I have made many clear public statements supporting Roe v. Wade and the rationale that underlies it. Those statements would be inconsistent with what the state would argue in court. I support the undue burden standard that the U.S. Supreme Court set forth in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 24-hour case has now moved to a point in which I doubt that I can zealously assert the state’s position. The question now before the Iowa Supreme Court is whether the rational basis test should apply to abortion regulations. I believe that standard would have a detrimental impact on women’s reproductive rights, health care, and our society. Therefore, I am disqualifying myself pursuant to Iowa Code section 13.3.
“This decision is consistent with my disqualification in the fetal heartbeat case in 2018. In that case, I stated that I could not zealously assert the state’s position because of my core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women. In my nearly 40 years in office, I have declined to represent the state in only one other similar situation. I do not take lightly my responsibility to represent the state.”
Ms. Bird took issue with Miller’s reasoning:
“It’s the attorney general’s job to enforce the laws that represent the state in court. Unlike the current attorney general, I would not let my own political ideology dictate enforcing and standing up for the laws of our state. The attorney general also has the responsibility to work alongside the legislature and governor’s office to ensure that we are supporting our law enforcement, upholding the rule of law and the Constitution, and creating a justice system that protects our communities and stands up for victims of crime.”
In a debate televised by KCCI on October 9th, Miller laid out his pro-abortion position:
“Well, first of all, I think it was a terrible mistake for the Supreme Court to reverse Roe … And I believe that women should essentially make this choice, that they had should have the freedom from government intervention to make this decision with their family if, if necessary. And of course with, with, with, with the doctor. So, you know, I I believe that, that the state should not restrict in any significant way a woman’s right to choose.”
In stark contrast, Brenna Bird’s position is unflinchingly pro-life:
“Well, I am pro-life and I will defend the laws that are passed by the legislature. The legislature makes the laws, I would defend them. Unlike the current occupant of the office, who when he first came into office in 1978, was pro-life, but then changed his position in 1994 and became pro-choice. Then in 2018, he refused to defend the state’s heartbeat law. Fast forward three years later to 2021 and he decided he would defend an abortion law. The legislature had passed on the waiting period, defended that all the way up through the state Supreme Court where that Supreme Court decided that the Iowa constitution did not have a right to an abortion. And then part way through that case decided he would no longer represent the state in that case. So the current Attorney general, he’s been on both sides of that issue, depending on where he perceives to be his personal political convenience at that time.”
As follow-up to the Brenna Bird vs. Tom Miller race for Attorney General, Pulse Life Advocates will speak directly with Ms. Bird later this week on other life issues that will have an impact on Iowa. We will report back before election day, so be sure to subscribe to be notified when new posts are published.