Carly Fiorina’s latest campaign stop in Iowa has upset some Des Moines-area parents, who say the GOP presidential candidate “ambushed” a group of kids on a preschool field trip — and led them to an anti-abortion rally.
On Wednesday morning, Fiorina attended the Iowa Right to Life Presidential Forum, where she emphasized her support for defunding Planned Parenthood and passing a national abortion ban.
The anti-abortion event was held at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. At the same time, a group of preschoolers was also visiting the botanical garden for a field trip.
According to the Des Moines Register, Fiorina “headed straight for a group of giggling 4- and 5-year-olds” when she first arrived at the botanical garden. She reportedly ushered them toward the makeshift stage set up for the anti-abortion event — which featured a large poster of a fetus — without asking permission for the children to sit with her.
During the hour-long event, Fiorina reiterated her opposition to Planned Parenthood, which has become a central feature of her campaign. The candidate has accused the national women’s health organization of illegally harvesting babies’ brains. (That claim, which sprung from a misleading video campaign spearheaded by Planned Parenthood opponents, has been widely and thoroughly debunked.)
At least one of the preschoolers’ parents isn’t happy their child encountered that type of information during their field trip.
“The kids went there to see the plants,” Chris Beck, the father of a 4-year-old child who was at the botanical garden that day, told the Guardian. “She ambushed my son’s field trip.”
Beck added that he thought Fiorina’s decision to direct the young children to the anti-abortion event was in “very poor taste and judgment,” and said his 4-year-old child cannot fully comprehend concepts related to ending a pregnancy.
In response to questions from the Guardian about Fiorina’s interactions with the preschoolers at Wednesday’s event, a spokesperson for her campaign replied, “We were happy that these children chose to come to Carly’s event with their adult supervisor.”
In a press statement released on Thursday, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, Sarah Isgur Flores, refuted the idea that Fiorina ushered the children to her event and derided “the left wingers who think they found their big scoop .”
“In Des Moines yesterday, a group of preschoolers along with their parents and teachers followed Carly right into the event she was speaking at for Iowa Right to Life,” Flores said. “Earlier, she’d run into the kids in the Botanical Gardens and watched the koi with them for a while. I guess the kids must have thought she was pretty neat because then their teachers and parents and the kids all followed Carly into the event complete with Carly stickers.”
Involving children in anti-abortion protests is a controversial yet commonplace move. Abortion opponents often hold demonstrations near schools complete with explicit slogans and graphic depictions of abortion. In Washington, D.C., a charter school located near the site of a new Planned Parenthood clinic — which has drawn a particularity high number of pro-life protesters — recently filed a lawsuit alleging the protesters are harassing children as young as 3 with upsetting messages about the “murder facility” next door.
This piece has been updated to include additional comments from Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager.