Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele Under Fire for Abortion Comments

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 12, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele Under Fire for Abortion Comments

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 12
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — New national Republican Party chairman Michael Steele has gotten himself in hot water with pro-life advocates for softening his pro-life views and then issuing a statement saying he hasn’t backed down on abortion. The misstep is the latest Steele gaffe that has some calling for his resignation.

Steele has taken a pro-life position in the past and has been endorsed by pro-life groups for his various political races — including running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

However, in an interview with GQ, Steele said he thought women have, according to the interviewer, a "right to choose abortion."

"Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice," he said. "Yeah. Absolutely."

Asked if he thought Roe v. Wade should be overturned, Steele said he thinks Roe was poorly decided and that states should have the right to prohibit abortion.

"I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter," he said. "The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide."

The abortion comments quickly drew a reaction from some who feel Steele is compromising his pro-life views or the party’s position — which favors a Constitutional amendment favoring protecting unborn children legally.

In comments to the news web site Politico, Steele reaffirmed his pro-life views, and said his comments to GQ don’t take back from his position supporting a Human Life Amendment.

"I am pro-life, always have been, always will be," he said.

Steele said his comments were awkward and that he "tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a ‘choice’ before deciding to put me up for adoption."

"I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances," Steele added. "They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did."

Steele continued in his remarks to Politico about the legality of abortion.

"In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue," he said.
"But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law," he added.

Two prominent pro-life advocates have responded to Steele’s remarks.

Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, said she was disappointed that Steele had appeared to water down his pro-life views.

"I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of ‘individual choice,’" Yoest said, adding that Planned Parenthood normally uses that sort of language.

"There are millions of pro-life Americans, Republican and Democrat, who are looking for leadership on the life issue and they will find Mr. Steele’s comments disturbing and demoralizing," she continued.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told that he has spoken with Steele about his concerns over the comments.

"I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature," he said. "He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues."

At the same time, Perkins said it "is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman’s pledge."

Perkins said he wanted to have another chance to speak with Steele privately before issuing any condemnation of his remarks and status as GOP chairman.

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