Republicans Slam Obama, Each Other on Abortion in Debate

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2012   |   2:03PM   |   Washington, DC

In last night’s presidential debate in South Carolina the Republican presidential candidates slammed Obama on abortion but also tangled with each other — with the candidates attempting to outduel one another over who is most pro-life.

Mitt Romney was the first to address abortion and he gave an account of how he became pro-life during his time as governor Massachusetts.

“You know, the issue where I change my mind, which obviously draws a lot of attention was that when I was running for governor, I said I would leave the law in place as it related to abortion. And I thought I could go in that narrow path between my personal belief and letting government stay out of the issue,” Romney said. “Then a piece of legislation came to my desk and it said we would begin to create embryos for the purpose of destroying those embryos, and I said I simply couldn’t sign something like that. And I penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe and said I’m pro-life, described my view and served as a pro-life governor.”

“The Massachusetts Citizens for Life have just written a letter last week describing my record and saying this is a solid record of a very pro-life governor. I’m proud of that record,” Romney said.

Rick Perry got in the first jabs on pro-abortion President Barack Obama by criticizing him for denying a grant to the nation’s Catholic bishops to help victims of sex trafficking because they refuse to refer victims who become pregnant for abortions.

“Look, I’ve said this administration is at war against organized religion. And when you look at what they’ve done, going after churches because churches have that ministerial exception in there and can decide who they were going to hire at — at their churches,” Perry said. “The idea that the Catholic charities cannot take money or the federal government, this administration won’t give them those dollars for sexually trafficked individuals because this administration doesn’t agree with the Catholic church on the issue of abortion. If that’s not a war on religion, I don’t know what it is. And this administration is out of control.”

Later in the debate, a questioner asked Newt Gingrich about an attack ad a group supporting Mitt Romney is running making the erroneous claim that newt opposes the Mexico City Policy, which prevents taxpayers from funding groups that promote or perform abortions in other nations.

“Speaker Gingrich, a super PAC supporting Governor Romney is running an ad here citing a pro-life’s group charge that you voted for a bill in Congress, co-sponsored by Nancy Pelosi, that supported China’s one-child policy. And they say that means you provided government funding for abortion, but you oppose abortion. What’s your response to that charge?” the Fox panelist asked.

“Well, this is typical of what both Senator Santorum and I have complained about with Governor Romney’s super PAC, over which he apparently has no influence, which makes you wonder how much influence he’d have if he were president,” Gingrich said.

“Well, let me take that particular bill. That bill was introduced by Claudine Schneider, who is a Republican from Rhode Island. It was introduced at a time when Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy was enforced. The Mexico City policy said no U.S. funding will be used to fund any activity that relates to abortion,” he added. “So it is explicitly a falsehood to suggest that a bill introduced under Mexico City policy would have paid for China’s one-child policy. In fact, I have explicitly opposed it. I have a 98.6 percent National Right to Life voting record in 20 years. And the only vote we disagreed on was welfare reform, which had nothing to do with abortion. So I think it is an absurdity and it would be nice if Governor Romney would exercise leadership on his former staff and his major donors to take falsehoods off the air.”

Romney responded by saying, “Speaker Gingrich, I — I already said at our last debate that anything that’s false in PAC ads, whether they are supportive of me or supportive of you should be taken often the air and fixed. I’ve already said that.”

“Now I can’t call these people and direct them to do that, as you know, because that would violate federal law, is that correct?” he said.

Gingrich agreed that was the case.