Gingrich, Bachmann Spar on Abortion in Republican Debate

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2011   |   12:24PM   |   Washington, DC

Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann sparred on the issue of abortion in Thursday night’s Republican debate with Bachmann making an accusation that Gingrich did not fully support pro-life efforts in Congress.

“All right. Congresswoman Bachmann, you say that Speaker Gingrich has a, quote, “inconsistent record on life” and you singled out comments he made recently that life begins with the implantation of a fertilized egg, not at conception. What is your concern?” a Fox News panelist asked her.

Bachmann responded, “Well, my concern is the fact that the Republican Party can’t get the issue of life wrong. This is a basic part of our party. Just last night we gathered in Des Moines to talk about this issue, because it’s that crucial to our party. And one of the concerns that I had is that when Speaker Gingrich was Speaker of the House he had an opportunity to de-fund Planned Parenthood. And he chose not to take it. That is a big issue.”

However, Bachmman’s claim is misleading in that the issue of de-funding Planned Parenthood did not come up until recent years and – in the 1990s during Gingrich’s time as Speaker — the main votes taken in the House were on stopping direct taxpayer funding of abortions in various instances in federal government programs. On those votes, Gingrich consistently maintained a 100% pro-life voting record concerning stopping domestic or foreign abortion funding of funding of pro-abortion groups.

In fact, Gingrich repeatedly voted to de-fund the UNFPA and to support the Mexico City Policy, which ensure the international affiliate of the Planned Parenthood abortion business did not receive taxpayer funds to promote and perform abortions abroad. More recently, Gingrich has backed efforts to revoke all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Bachmann also bashed Gingrich over a statement from years past where he said he would support all Republican candidates for Congress — whether pro-life or not — to build a Republican majority and capture control from pro-abortion Democrats.

“And also I think even more troubling when he was in Washington, D.C., he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support but he would campaign for Republicans who are in support of the barbaric procedure known as partial birth abortion. I could never do that,” she said. “As president of the United States, I will be 100 percent pro- life from conception until natural death.”

Gingrich responded, saying, “Sometimes Congressman Bachmann doesn’t get her facts very accurate. I had ad 98.5 percent right to life voting record in 20 years. The only difference was that they didn’t like the initial welfare reform bill, which every other conservative group had said had nothing in it on abortion. Period. That’s the only one in 20 years.” [related]

“I believe that life begins at conception. The conversation we’re having which is an ABC interview, I was frankly thinking about proposing a commission to look at fertility, because I think there is a challenge with what happens to embryos, who I think should be regarded as life because by definition they have been conceived. I am against any kind of experimentation on embryos. And I think my position on life actually has been very clear and very consistent,” he said.

Bachmann retorted: “I’m a serious candidate for president of the United States. And my facts are accurate. Speaker Gingrich said that he would actively support and campaign for Republicans who got behind the barbaric practice of partial birth abortions. This is not a small issue. This is a big issue.”

“Well, first of all, what I said on that particular issue is I wouldn’t go out and try to purge Republicans. Now, I don’t see how you are going to govern the country if you are going to run around and decide who you are going to purge. The fact is, twice when I was speaker we moved the end of partial-birth abortion. Clinton vetoed it. We worked very hard. And Rick Santorum has been a leader on this issue,” Gingrich responded.

He added:  “I have consistently opposed partial birth abortion. I, in fact, would like to see us go much further than that and eliminate abortion as a choice. And I said as president I would de-fund Planned Parenthood and shift the money to pay for adoption services to give young women a choice of life rather than death.”