Congressman Steve King hosted a press conference in Des Moines on Friday with some pro-life leaders from Iowa. The press conference centered around exceptions for rape and incest in pro-life legislation.

Congressman King was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans after he said:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest. Would there be any population in the world left if we did that considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place?”

In addition to the media and the Democrats attacking King, his primary opponents latched on to the attacks, as did Bob Vander Plaats, the CEO of The FAMiLY Leader. Vander Plaats said King again made national news with “an embarrassing statement about rape and incest that diminishes our pro-life message and damages our pro-life cause.”

King started the press conference by going into detail about how the heartbeat bill passed through Iowa after his national legislation was roadblocked by the Republican establishment in Washington D.C.

King said he sees almost all of the Republican Party as pro-life, but noted there are some who are pro-life by conviction and others who are pro-life because it is politically expedient.

“I don’t want people to be confused about where the Republican Party stands or where the pro-life movement stands,” King said. “This country is more pro-life today than it was one year ago, two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. It’s moving more and more in the pro-life direction. We’re going to have to answer this question of exceptions.”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, King said, argued against King’s position of no exceptions and claimed the Republican platform contains exceptions.

“It does not,” King said.

King said when a challenge is presented at the Supreme Court on the life issue, it will be important that it does not contain exceptions. The 14th Amendment, he said, provides equal protection under the law. A bill with exceptions for rape or incest will be unconstitutional because it will exempt individuals from equal protection under the law because of how they came to be.

“This is an important legal point,” King said. “It’s an important theological point and it’s an important point for all people here that those conceived under different circumstances are every bit as precious as the rest of us.”

President and Founder of Save the 1, Rebecca Kiessling, talked about her own story. Kiessling was conceived in rape. Her mother went to two different illegal back ally abortions four years prior to Roe v. Wade.

Kiessling said the back ally conditions and the fact it was illegal caused her mother to back out.

“She was pro-choice when we met,” Kiessling said. “Even though she was very happy to meet me. I was 19 when we met. She told me that if abortion had been legal, she would have aborted me. I literally owe my birth to legislators who protected me. They are my heroes.”

Kiessling criticized those who label children conceived in rape or incest as “hard cases.”

“We’re not hard cases as people,” she said. “It’s really all of the people who make the exceptions, who discriminate, who are the hard cases because they have the hardened hearts.”

She, like King she said, has been attacked for her position.

“I’ve put myself out there knowing that I’ll be ridiculed,” she said. “But I do it for others. The most selfish thing for me to do would be to live my life and say ‘at least I was born, too bad for the rest.’ I can’t do that.”

Kiessling talked about a photo she had posted with her and her three daughters holding signs. One said conceived in rape, I love my life. Her daughters’ signs said mom conceived in rape, I love our lives.

“There were about 4,000 pro-choice activists who descended upon my Facebook page to accuse me of being a rape apologist, saying that I’m pro-rape because I love my life,” Kiessling said. “And telling me if I cared for my birth mother at all I would’ve killed myself a long time ago. This is the kind of ridicule I face and I see that this is exactly the same kind of thing that is happening to Congressman King.”

Kiessling criticized those who are suggesting King is defending rape.

“That is absurd,” she said. “Absolutely absurd.”

She stressed the importance of pro-life activists standing up for King since he has stood up for them over the years. Kiessling called King the most pro-life legislator in Congress.

“I am so grateful for his leadership,” she said.

Kiessling also explained she is a rape victim’s child, not a child of a rapist. She questioned why the death penalty is considered cruel and unusual punishment for rapists and child molesters but not babies.

“For all those people who are out there advocating for abortions in cases of rape, let me ask you, do you ever see anybody advocate for a woman to be able to pay someone to kill her rapist?” she asked. “Never — only advocating to pay someone to kill her innocent child. And that is absolutely barbaric.

“In a civilized society, we do not do that. We do not punish innocent people for someone else’s crime. That’s exactly what Congressman King said in his statement — the child does not deserve to die for the sins of the father.”

Tammy Kobza of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, said people around the state of Iowa are wishing they lived in the Fourth District so they could vote for King.

“In the district he represents, the people are so grateful for him,” she said. “People across the state are wishing they could vote for him. That is what happens when courageous men stand up in very hard times and defend people who were not maybe conceived under the best of circumstances, but we all know that their life is worthy in the sight of God and it should be in the sight of a civilized society.”

Tim Overlin, executive director of Personhood Iowa, said his organization was founded because of what King talked about earlier in the press conference. Some pro-life organizations resist protecting all unborn life.

Overlin talked about testimony presented by the general counsel for National Right to Life as Jim Bopp testified against the heartbeat bill.

“I’m here to support one of our champions,” Overlin said of King. “One of the guys who has gone to the wall whether it was against national groups or his own leadership.”

Tamara Scott, host of Truth For Our Time, spoke about stories she has heard from people who were conceived in rape or incest. She said it’s important the conversation happen.

“When we silence people like Congressman King instead of listening to the hard discussion we’re trying to have, crimes go unnoticed, criminals go unpunished and predators run free,” Scott said. “Women and children remain in danger as evidence of rape and incest is destroyed in the death of an innocent child, further victimizing young girls and women emotionally for years, long after the crime has stopped.”

Scott said the media and other lawmakers have it within their means to help end the tragedy, but instead are choosing to blast King.

“A man who has dedicated his life to saving the lives of others he doesn’t even know yet at the risk of his own career,” she said. “How many good people are missing? How many great accomplishments and contributions will we never see because what has been stolen from mankind?”

Scott said she won’t involve herself in the primary, but hopes anyone standing for life will step up and defend someone else who stands for life when wrong is done.

“When two major news sources have the courage to retract a statement because they followed the error printed and biased reporting of another, shouldn’t we all stand up,” she said. “I don’t know about you, I’m tired of seeing good men and destroyed because someone else doesn’t like their views.”