Fact Checker

Fact Checker: Ad asks if Finkenauer's heart is in the right place

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and challenger state Rep. Abby Finkenauer shake hands following an Oct. 16 televised debate at the KGAN-TV studio in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and challenger state Rep. Abby Finkenauer shake hands following an Oct. 16 televised debate at the KGAN-TV studio in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

INTRODUCTION

“Was it Abby Finkenauer’s heart that told her to put criminal illegal aliens back on Iowa streets? Did her heart tell her to vote against cutting our taxes? ... And is her heart the reason she supports abortion in the ninth month, or why she voted to allow the sale of fetal body parts?

SOURCE OF CLAIMS

The claims are part of an ad entitled “Her Heart” running on television stations from the Blum for Iowa campaign. U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, a Dubuque Republican, is running against state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, in Iowa’s 1st U.S. House District.

ANALYSIS

With multiple claims, we’ll break those into four separate checks, with separate grades based on their accuracy.

Claim: “Was it Abby Finkenauer’s heart that told her to put criminal illegal aliens back on Iowa streets?”

Analysis: Blum’s campaign tied this claim to Finkenauer’s opposition to Senate File 481, a bill discouraging local governments from providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

According to previous Gazette reporting and the text of the bill, the legislation would levy sanctions against local governments for not cooperating with federal agents enforcing immigration laws — including not complying with federal immigration detainer requests for people in custody — and prohibit local governments from discouraging local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws.

It’s true Finkenauer voted against the bill, but it became law in April despite her opposition.

At the center of this claim are those immigration detainers — requests from federal agents for local authorities to continue holding in jail potential undocumented immigrants who otherwise might have satisfied other requirements to be released from jail.

Detainers give federal authorities more time to investigate and, if merited, pick up an undocumented immigrant from local facilities.

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However, many Iowa sheriffs have argued this opens them and their communities to lawsuits — for example, for continuing to hold someone even after bail has been posted or a sentence has been served. That’s why several Iowa sheriffs say they’ll honor detainer requests only if signed by a judge or magistrate, and not only by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. But the sheriffs say they then honor them.

It’s a reach on its face to say that Finkenauer’s opposition to SF 481 means she “put criminal illegal aliens back on Iowa streets.”

Conclusion: Even if Senate File 481 had not passed, jail officials have in place a system to honor detainer requests giving time for federal agents to investigate further, although some officials set a more difficult hurdle to meet. And Finkenauer did not put anyone anywhere. This claims gets a D.

Claim: Finkenauer chose to “vote against cutting our taxes.”

Analysis: Blum’s campaign pointed to Finkenauer’s vote during this past spring’s legislative session against Senate File 2417. That legislation was signed into law in May and is expected to result in a $2.86 billion state income tax cut over six years, according to previous Gazette coverage.

Voting records show Finkenauer did vote against the legislation — the largest income tax cut in state history.

Democrats argued the cut mostly would benefit the wealthiest Iowans, lead to budget cuts and ultimately increase sales and property taxes.

Conclusion: The consequences of this vote are yet to be seen, but it’s true Finkenauer voted nay on an income-tax cut. This claim gets an A.

Claim: Finkenauer “supports abortion in the ninth month”

Analysis: Over the last two years, Finkenauer has cast several votes on Iowa’s abortion rules.

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Last year she voted in favor of expanded exceptions for an abortion after 20 weeks. Exceptions included incidents of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, medical emergency or to preserve life of the mother or unborn child.

She also voted in 2017 against a bill that required a 72-hour wait before an abortion could be performed. The law has since been struck down as unconstitutional by the Iowa Supreme Court.

In a televised debate Oct. 16, Finkenauer expressed support for the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling and then said that a decision to terminate a pregnancy at any time should be made by a woman and her doctor.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager with Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to sexual and reproductive rights, told the Fact Checker it’s very unusual for an abortion that late in the pregnancy. Nearly 90 percent of abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only 1.3 percent take place at 21 weeks or later, according to the organization.

Conclusion: Finkenauer has strongly supported abortion rights, which has drawn her endorsements from national abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

She has voted to expand abortion rights, but it’s important to note that such a procedure in the ninth month of pregnancy is rare. We give this claim an A.

Claim: Finkenauer “opted to allow the sale of illegal body parts”

Analysis: Last year, Finkenauer joined other Democrats in voting against a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, often as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

The bill, which passed the GOP-controlled Legislature and was signed May 4 by Gov. Kim Reynolds, has been described as one of the nation’s most restrictive.

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While commonly referred to as the fetal heartbeat bill, the legislation began as a bill to prohibit the transfer or use of fetal body parts in the state. Violating the rule would result in a Class C felony. The bill was later amended to include the fetal heartbeat provisions.

The buying, selling or transferring of a fetal body part already is banned by federal law.

The fetal heartbeat law has been challenged by Planned Parenthood and a district judge this summer agreed to a temporary stay on the law’s effective date while the matter goes to court.

Conclusion: It’s accurate to say that Finkenauer voted against the bill this spring — and that bill included provisions banning the transfer and use of fetal body parts. However, the bill’s fetal heartbeat provision was the main source of her opposition. Wording is key here.

Factoring in that the transfer and use of fetal body parts already is illegal under federal law, this claim becomes all the more misleading. For that, we give it a F.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads 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.

l This Fact Checker was researched and written by Mitchell Schmidt and Molly Duffy of The Gazette.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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