The Iowa Democratic Party’s chairwoman held a news conference this morning to accuse Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle of flip-flopping on the abortion issue.

Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, is citing Nussle’s responses to a “Project Vote Smart” survey in which Nussle indicated he believes abortions “should be legal only within the first trimester of a pregnancy.” That’s at odds with Nussle’s long-stated opposition to abortion. According to a Nussle campaign statement issued this afternoon, it’s at odds with his personal views on the subject, too. “That’s as extreme as you can get and I think now he’s trying to somehow, perhaps, change that position,” Pederson says. “I think we should know where he truly stands.”

Nussle in the past has indicated an overall opposition to abortion, but in the 2006 Project Vote Smart survey Nussle gave responses indicating he would support abortion in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Pederson accuses Nussle of changing his position in order to garner votes. “Voters should be ware,” Pederson says. Pederson accuses Nussle of giving voters “inconsistent” positions on abortion.

Nussle’s campaign manager issued a statement this afternoon saying Nussle is “100 percent pro-life.” The statement went on to say that it’s currently legal in Iowa to have an abortion in the second or third trimester of a pregnancy, and Nussle — if he’s elected governor — would sign legislation that would ban second and third trimester abortions “because it saves lives.”

According to the statement, Nussle is “personally” opposed to first trimester abortions while at the same time Nussle indicated on the survey that “only” first trimester abortions should be legal. Nussle’s campaign manager said Nussle was using the survey to illustrate the “principles he would use and the legislation he would sign as governor that encourage and promote a culture that values life.”

The campaign statement did not say whether Nussle supports or opposes abortions in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Nussle said a few years ago during an appearance on Iowa Public Television that he did not “have conditions” under which a woman should obtain an abortion. Nussle has also proposed legislation that would require parental consent for abortions on young women under the age of 18.

Nussle’s general election opponent, Democrat Chet Culver, has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood’s Political Action Committee for his pledge to veto any bill that would restrict abortion rights in Iowa. Culver, however, did not fill out the Project Vote Smart survey.