Michael Steele, the embattled chairman of the national Republican Party, says he will participate in a January 3 debate co-sponsored by a leading pro-life organization.
Steele confirmed today to the Daily Caller, a conservative news web site that is sponsoring the debate with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and Americans for Tax Reform, that he will face off with five rivals seeking to lead the party against pro-abortion President Barack Obama.
The confirmation is surprising because some party insiders speculated Steele would not participate but would defend his record in private before the 168 members of the Republican National Committee who will determine the chairman of the party and lead its efforts to fundraise for get out of the vote efforts supporting what is expected to be a pro-life nominee facing Obama in 2012.
Because the position is so important in terms of representing the Republican Party’s pro-life views as a spokesman and setting up the presidential election, which has monumental abortion implications, the SBA List has been active in the debate. It has urged pro-life advocates to contact RNCDebate.org to urge pro-life questions be asked and it conducted a series of interview questions with most of the chairman candidates on pro-life issues.
Steele, the former Maryland Lt. Governor, is pro-life but raised eyebrows in the pro-life community in an interview with GQ, where Steele said he thought women have, according to the interviewer, a “right to choose abortion.”
His opponents include Wisconsin Republican Chairman Reince Priebus; Saul Anuzis, a pro-life former Michigan Republican chairman; and Gentry Collins, who served as RNC political director until last month — when he resigned and issued a scathing report on Steele’s tenure and financial and fundraising problems.
They, along with Ann Wagner of Missouri, former co-chair of the RNC, interviewed with the SBA list and set forth clear pro-life positions.
“I believe, absolutely, that life begins at the moments of conception,” Priebus said. “It’s a core principle of mine.”
“If I was to be elected chairman of the RNC that would be something that I would have an even bigger obligation to uphold the position I have on abortion. And I think it would be a huge disappointment to God if I didn’t,” Priebus pledged. “I am a 100 percent, Psalm 139 pro-life Republican.”
According to a Politico report, Collins “used the question to pivot to his criticism of Steele, arguing that a stronger RNC will be better able to support anti-abortion candidates” while Anuzis “pointed to his past support of anti-abortion groups during his time as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.”
Anuzis said, as a Catholic, he believes human life “begins at conception and ends at natural death.”
SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser also asked each of the candidates if he had contributed to a “pro-choice organization.” All three said they had not.
“Never, and I never would,” Collins responded. “I am pro-life. My wife and I are devoutly Catholic.”
Former Missouri GOP Chair Ann Wagner also interviewed with SBA and said being pro-life was “part of the fabric of who I am,” adding, “It’s how I was raised.”
Maria Cino, a longtime Republican official, has said she is pro-life, but has come under fire from pro-life advocates for her past ties with the pro-abortion election group WISH List, which supports pro-abortion Republican women candidates. Cino made several donations to the pro-abortion groups over a several year period from the late 1990s through 2001, but said the donations were meant to support building the GOP, not abortion.
That explanation has been met with skepticism by some pro-life advocates.