Republican Debate Touches on Pro-Life Issues, Parental Rights

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 13, 2011   |   10:21AM   |   Washington, DC

Last night’s Republican debate — unlike the one last week — touched briefly on pro-life issues and featured a heated exchange between a couple of the candidates and pro-life Texas Gov. Rick Perry over the issue of parental rights.

Because none of the questions from the Tea Party participants or CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer queried about pro-life issues, Michele Bachmann, the pro-life Minnesota congresswoman, was the first to bring up the issue of abortion, doing so on her own. She repeatedly attacked pro-abortion President Barack Obama on Obamacare, promising to repeal the government-run health care plan that includes abortion funding and rationing concerns, but she also tagged Obama for a recent decision forcing insurance companies to pay for drugs that can cause abortions, birth control and contraception as “preventative care.”

“President Obama, in a stunning, shocking level of power, now just recently told all private insurance companies, ‘You must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge.’ That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong,” Bachmann said.

Also during the debate, Perry talked about his pro-life record as governor, something two pro-life organizations say was stellar.

“I passed a parental notification piece of legislation. I’ve been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas. And what we were all about was trying to save young people’s lives in Texas,” he said.

Bachmann also went after Perry on the parental rights issue of an executive order he signed requiring Texas girls to receive the HPV vaccine to ensure they do not contract cervical cancer, a decision for which Perry has already apologized.

“I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest,” Bachmann said. “That’s — little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do- over. The parents don’t get a do-over.”

Perry responded to Blitzer saying the vaccine was not a mandate because it contained an opt-out provision.

“No, sir it wasn’t. It was very clear. It had an opt- out. And at the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that. And at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life. And that’s what this was really all about for me,” Perry said.

Senator Rick Santorum also criticized Perry on the issue.

“I think we need to hear what Governor Perry’s saying. He’s saying that his policy was right. He believes that what he did was right. He thinks he went about it the wrong way,” he said. “I believe your policy is wrong. Why — ladies and gentlemen, why do we inoculate people with vaccines in public schools? Because we’re afraid of those diseases being communicable between people at school. And therefore, to protect the rest of the people at school, we have vaccinations to protect those children. Unless Texas has a very progressive way of communicating diseases in their school by way of their curriculum, then there is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government. This is big government run amok. It is bad policy, and it should not have been done.”

Perry responded, saying, “Look, I think we made decisions in Texas. We put a $3 billion effort in to find the cure for cancer. There are a lot of different cancers out there. Texas, I think, day in and day out, is a place that protects life.”

Following the debate, the Perry campaign issued a statement saying:  “In 2007, Gov. Perry issued an executive order that added the HPV vaccine to the list of standard vaccinations for students attending public schools and protected parents’ rights to opt out. That order was repealed two months later by the legislature, and the governor acquiesced to the measure by declining to veto it. Governor Perry has always been a strong believer in protecting parental rights, which is why this executive order allowed parents to make the final decision about whether or not their daughter was vaccinated.  As for all vaccines in Texas, parents would have had the final say.”

“Governor Perry’s executive order also made it easier than ever for parents to opt their children out of any vaccination by making the affidavit available online,” the statement continued. “Gov. Perry stands firmly on the side of protecting life, and he viewed the issue in that context since HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women. However, he has said that, in hindsight, his order was a mistake because citizens should have had the opportunity to express their opinions beforehand on such a sensitive issue.”

David Brody, a conservative journalist for CBN, said the debate helped Bachmann and could allow her to rise back up in the polls.

“She’s back. For the first time on a prime-time debate stage, Michele Bachmann decided to engage Rick Perry on the issues. She went after him tonight in Tampa on issuing an Executive Order that would have mandated 11-year-old girls to receive the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer,” he said. “The HPV vaccine issue is a combination of government overreach and parental rights, two issues that are clearly in Michele Bachmann’s wheelhouse. In addition, Bachmann has now introduced the “crony capitalism” charge against Perry suggesting that Perry may have signed that Executive Order on the HPV vaccine because of financial ties to the drug company of the vaccine that donated to Perry’s campaign. The fact that Bachmann introduced this line of questioning and that Perry now has to defend himself on it brings a fresh, new wrinkle to this race.”

Also during the debate, several of the candidates — including Bachmann, Santorum, Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and others called for overturning Obamacare.