Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley says we 'have to stop demonizing' women who have abortions

Des Moines Register Political Soapbox

F. Amanda Tugade Philip Joens
Des Moines Register
View Comments

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told Iowa State Fair-goers Saturday it is important to help women who have abortions, even though she is pro-life.

The 51-year-old Republican presidential hopeful said at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox that she finds it unlikely that Republicans will be able to pass a federal ban on abortion and they should stop demonizing women who decide to have an abortion.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year some states have allowed abortions to continue. Others, like Iowa, have passed near-total bans and been "pro-life," Haley said. But it would be challenging for any Republican administration to sign a federal ban, given the makeup of Congress, Haley said.

"In order to pass a federal law, you have to have a majority of the house, 60 Senate votes, and a signature of a president. We haven't had 60 Senate votes in over 100 years," Haley said. "We might have 45. So no Republican can ban abortion any more than a Democrat can ban state laws."

Republicans in South Carolina — where Haley served as governor from 2011 to 2017 — proposed subjecting women who have abortions to the state's homicide laws. Under South Carolina law, a person convicted of murder faces at least 30 years in prison and the possibility of the death penalty, according to NBC News.

But Haley said that is the wrong approach. She said she had a college roommate who was raped and people need to be compassionate.

"We have to stop demonizing that issue and humanize that," Haley said. "What we need to do is save as many babies as we can and support as many moms as we can."

Haley on the campaign trail has also touted that the U.S. needs to be tougher on adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran. She has called China a "national" threat for infiltrating the U.S.

SFA Fund, a federal Super Pac that supports her, just released its first political TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire, with Haley's stance against China front and center.

On the Soapbox Saturday, Haley said Chinese businesses are buying Iowa land and hog farms.

"We're going to make sure we deal with China once and for all, and Iowa is the front line," Haley said. "Iowa is an important state. Everybody likes to think that it's because of the caucus. But when you look at what is happening with the threat behind China, think Iowa."

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks with a young girl during Gov. Kim Reynolds' Fair-Side Chat during day three of the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, August 12, 2023 in Des Moines.

On Saturday morning, Haley said during her Fair-Side Chat with Gov. Kim Reynolds, ahead of her appearance at the Register's Soapbox, that Chinese companies steal millions of dollars worth of research at American colleges and "spread Chinese propaganda."

"They steal $600 billion worth of intellectual property from us every year," Haley said.

A former U.N. ambassador, Haley said she's negotiated with China and Russia before. With speaking to Chinese leaders, she said "you go to them with strength."

"The first thing is we make sure they no longer buy U.S. soil, and we take back what they've already purchased. We go to our universities, and we say: 'You either take Chinese money or you take American money, but the days of taking both are over,'" she said. "We get that infiltration out of our universities. We go to China, we say we will end all normal trade relations with you until you stop killing Americans."

Haley says: 'Underestimate me. That'll be fun.'

At the fair, Haley had a jam-packed schedule, kicking the day off at JR's SouthPork Ranch with Reynolds for the Fair-Side Chat and afterward toured the cattle barn with State Sen. Dawn Driscoll.

Haley reunited with Reynolds later in the afternoon. Dressed in T-shirts, jeans, western-style belts and cowboy boots, the two walked around the swine barn with U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn and saw butter sculptures. They paused frequently to shake hands and pose for pictures with festivalgoers.

Reynolds' tour with Haley on the fairgrounds coincided with Trump's arrival at the fair. The former president drew in a crowd of supporters, some of whom chanted "USA! USA!" and carried green signs that read: "Back to Back Champ."

At a press gaggle after the Soapbox, Haley said "no one's asking me about Trump" at the town hall events she's held in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Voters, she said, are concerned with the government's trillions of dollars of debt and about their children's education.

Haley also addressed the message printed across her blue T-shirt, which read: "Underestimate me. That'll be fun."

The meaning behind it is simple, she told the media.

"When I ran against the longest-serving legislator of South Carolina, people laughed," Haley said, "and I got to work never in their support and we won. When I ran for governor, I ran against the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, a very popular congressman and a state senator. I was 'Nikki who?' and I had 3% in the polls, and we worked South Carolina like no one else. And when I got to the United Nations, they said I didn't have enough experience, and I got to work."

Haley has already met the requirements for the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, according to the Associated Press.

"I can tell you we have done dozens and dozens of town halls in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina," she said. "We take every question, and we answer and so the people of Iowa have gotten me ready for this debate. You know, I mean, they go and they ask the hard questions, we can answer those. We're just ready to get up there and have a good time."

F. Amanda Tugade covers social justice issues for the Des Moines Register. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @writefelissa.

Philip Joens covers retail, real estate and RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-284-8184, or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.

View Comments