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Fact Checker: Vernon ad dings Blum on women's issues

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Introduction

“Congressman Blum actually sponsored a bill that could make it legal for a woman to be fired just for being pregnant. Blum tried to defund Planned Parenthood even though women depend on it for critical care, like cancer screenings.”

Source of claim

Monica Vernon, a Democrat running for Iowa’s 1st District of the U.S. House, included these claims in her “Fire” ad that started airing in mid-October.

Analysis

Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum was one of 172 lawmakers to co-sponsor the First Amendment Defense Act, introduced in June 2015, as the U.S. Supreme Court was legalizing same-sex marriage.

The bill sought to keep the government from penalizing people for acting in accordance with their religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The original language of the bill the lawmakers sponsored prohibited “taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

Blum said in July 2015 he thought the bill pertained only to churches — not companies. But an Aug. 3, 2015, Fact Checker shows the bill defined “person” as “including corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or non-profit status.”

Although the bill was a response to same-sex marriage, the language was general enough the American Civil Liberties Union said it could allow employers to discriminate against single mothers or anyone who has sex outside of marriage.

FADA hasn’t passed at the national level and states that have passed similar laws have faced boycotts and backlash from some companies.

The second claim in the ads says Blum tried to defund Planned Parenthood. Blum has voted to halt the organization’s funding several times, most recently in January when the measure was included with the budget reconciliation process.

Blum backed up his votes with this September 2015 statement: “Common sense dictates that your tax dollars should not go to Planned Parenthood as Congress investigates their selling of babies’ organs — that money should be directed to other providers of women’s health services like community health centers.” the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

Through 650 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood provides contraception, tests for and treats sexually transmitted diseases and screens for cervical and other cancers, according to its website.

Planned Parenthood also provides abortions — making it a lightning rod in politics.

A 2015 video purports to show a Planned Parenthood official trying to sell fetal tissue, but the unedited version indicates she is trying to cover the agency’s costs, not make money.

Investigations in 13 states ended with no evidence of fetal tissue sales, NPR reported.

Conclusion

Vernon is right Blum co-sponsored FADA, which, so far, hasn’t gained passage in Congress. She’s also correct Blum has voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

It’s hard to say definitively whether FADA would allow employers to discriminate against unwed mothers. The ACLU said that was a possibility. Vernon said the legislation “could” make it legal for a pregnant woman to be fired.

Because her two claims do not overstate the facts, we give them an A.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/office holder or a national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

• This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.

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