After being appointed as Acting Attorney General on Nov. 7, Matt Whitaker's quotes on abortion policy and other social issues have come under greater scrutiny. On Monday, The Guardian unearthed old audio of Whitaker talking about abortion and "the culture wars" at panels and interviews in recent years.
At a panel organized by Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King in 2011, for example, Whitaker said the fight for family values is still necessary. "They're not over. We're still fighting," Whitaker told the audience.
In February of that same year, Whitaker was asked by a selection panel for Iowa's state supreme court (he's from the Hawkeye State) about a time he experienced "a difference between your personally held beliefs and what your duties were as an officer of the court or an officer of the country." Whitaker cited the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 or the FACE Act. (The Guardian reported that the panel "received letters of complaint" about him, and he was not selected to serve on the state supreme court.)
The FACE Act prohibits the use of "force, threat of force or physical obstruction" to protect people accessing reproductive health services, including abortion. "We had a unique case in south-east Iowa where an individual put his car into a family planning clinic," Whitaker told the panel, according to The Guardian. "So that's one clear example where my own personal beliefs may be inconsistent but I had no problem following the law and enforcing the law."
The man Whitaker is likely referring to is David McMenemy, who was charged in connection with driving a 2004 Saturn into the Edgerton Women’s Health Care Center in 2006. McMenemy was reported to believe that the healthcare center performed abortions, according to the Quad-City Times.
However, despite Whitaker's internal objections, McMenemy was not prosecuted in violation of the FACE Act, according to The Guardian. "In reviewing the indictment, it appears Mr McMenemy was only charged under the federal arson statute,” Rachel Scherle, a prosecutor in Iowa’s southern district, told The Guardian.
Whitaker has also been vocally anti-abortion during his campaign to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate in 2014. "As a father I understand the miracle of life. I believe that life begins at conception and will oppose all taxpayer funding for abortions. In the Senate, I will work vigorously to protect the unborn and stop any legislation that threatens the right to life," he said, according to his 2014 U.S. Senate campaign website. The site was archived by OnTheIssues, a non-profit organization that tracks candidates' stances on seemingly every issue.
During the campaign, Whitaker told the editorial board of The Des Moines Register that he was "100 percent pro-life." At that time Whitaker did concede concessions for the health of the woman carrying the fetus. "The one exception is the life of the mother. ... I just can't play doctor or God and put my decision into a health care professional's decision as to what life is more valuable," Whitaker said, according to The Des Moines Register.
Whitaker's views on abortion are just one of many legal issues being scrutinized as he steps into this new role. Time will tell if he'll be able to transition from Acting Attorney General to simply Attorney General.