Republican Chairman Michael Steele Confirms Pro-Life Views

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 30, 2010   |   2:26PM   |   Washington, DC

Republican Party chairman Michael Steele confirmed his pro-life views in a new interview with the Susan B. Anthony List as he faces several candidates looking to replace him.

The pro-life group has already conducted interviews with other candidates who confirmed their pro-life principles.

Steele said he wouldn’t do “too much” differently in terms of his role as chairman in advocating pro-life issues and he defended his role in advocating the pro-life platform, saying that the GOP got away from pro-life principles in past elections before he took over as chairman.

He said his role as chairman has ensured that Republican voters have their say in a primary with candidates of a differing perspective on abortion and that the party comes into play in the general election supporting GOP candidates that become the nominee.

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.”

In the new SBA List interview, Steele said he comes from a much different perspective on the pro-life issue because he was adopted and because his mother was on the way to having an abortion when she changed her mind and decided to put him up for adoption.

“Choose life means what God wants for you and the child,” Steele said, referring to Biblical concepts of respecting human life and how society needs to embrace “the least among us” and protect “the life in the womb.” Steele added that respect for life is a “foundation of everything we hold dear in society.”

He said abortion too frequently is “distorted” when it comes up in the context of politics but said the party had a role to defend its platform calling for respect for the “right to life.”

SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser asked Steele about an issue that is cropping up as a point of difference between other candidates and Maria Cino, who is seeking Steele’s position — that of making donations to pro-abortion groups. Before he became chairman of the GOP, Steele faced criticism for serving on a the board of a Republican group that supported candidates that both supported and opposed abortion.

Steele said former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman asked him to join the group and he said he did so in order for pro-life advocates to have a seat at the table.

“How else do you help others appreciate a pro-life perspective,” he said, saying there needed to be “a pro-life voice at the table.”

“I’ve always believed in being in the room” as opposed to not having any impact on the decisions made by groups supporting or opposing candidates. “I didn’t change my views on the life issue” and he said he had a “greater appreciation” for the cause of the pro-life movement.

Responding to the interview, Dannenfelser told  “The next RNC chairman must affirm the Right to Life in principle and promote it operationally through the 2012 election cycle. The strength of the pro-life grassroots movement was clearly displayed in the midterm election results and, through these interviews, candidates are speaking directly to the movement.”

The interview comes after Steele agreed to participate in a January 3 debate co-sponsored by the leading pro-life organization along with Americans for Tax Reform and The Daily Caller.

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 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’s 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 who has not yet interviewed with SBA, 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.