The Republican presidential candidates sparred over the issue of abortion in tonight’s GOP presidential debate. Below, LifeNews is bringing you the unfiltered debate transcript showing that exchange.
Ultimately, each Republican presidential candidate could be called into question for criticism over the pro-life views.
Romney could be said to be not authentic on his pro-life conversion because he supported abortion before that and some say the conversion was political. Santorum has faced questions for endorsing pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter, his Pennsylvania college when he served in the U.S. Senate.
Gingrich has faced criticism for not sufficiently believing life begins at conception or fertilization and for not pressing pro-life issues as much as he could have in Congress. And Ron Paul has faced questions over his states rights approach and not supporting federal pro-life legislation.
All in all, the Republican candidates are campaigning as pro-life advocates and would be monumentally better than pro-abortion President Barack Obama. No matter which GOP hopeful you support, they all would very likely implement a host of pro-life policies, appoint pro-life people to key administrative and court positions, and give unborn children the hope they don’t enjoy currently when it comes to any chance of gaining legal protection from abortion.
Throughout this campaign, LifeNews has endeavored to report fairly, accurately, and thoroughly on all of the pro-life candidates for president and we will continue to do so. We have not endorsed or opposed any particular candidate but urge the pro-life community to unite together to defeat Obama in November.
King: But let’s move on to another issue that came up in the campaign right here in South Carolina this week, and that’s the life issue.
Mr. Speaker, your campaign sent out a mailing to South Carolina Republicans across this state essentially questioning Governor Romney’s commitment on this issue, saying that he has changed his position on the abortion issue.
If you’ll recall, I moderated a debate back in New Hampshire in June. There were seven candidates then. We have four tonight. But when this came up, we talked about it briefly, and then I asked, is this fair game, an issue in this campaign, or is it case closed?
Mr. Cain, who was with us at the time, said case closed, and I paused. No one else took the opportunity to speak up.
If it was case closed then, why is a legitimate issue now?
GINGRICH: You just said nobody else spoke. So nobody else said, yes, it’s case closed. I mean, Herman Cain said it was case closed, the rest of us, it wasn’t a particular issue we wanted to fight that night.
I mean, we are allowed to run our own campaigns, John. It’s not an automatic requirement that we fit in your debate schedule.
This is — look, this is a very straightforward question. Governor Romney — and I — and I accept this — I mean, Governor Romney has said that he had a experience in a lab and became pro-life, and I accept that.
After he became pro-life, Romneycare does pay for tax-paid abortions. Romneycare has written into it Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, by name. Does not have any right to life group written into it.
He did appoint pro-abortion judges. And a branch of the government which included his appointees did agree to fund an abortion clinic for Planned Parenthood. All that occurred after he had become pro-life.
Now, those are all facts which we validated, and it seems to me that’s a legitimate part of the campaign, is to say, “OK, if you’re genuinely pro-life, how come these things are occurring?”
KING: Governor Romney, he questions whether you’re genuinely pro-life.
ROMNEY: I’m not questioned on character or integrity very often. And I don’t feel like standing here for that. But let me clarify the things which are wrong in what the speaker just said. And — and he can get a scintilla of truth in there to make it seem like this is a significant issue. But let’s go through one by one.
First, in Romneycare there’s no mention of abortion whatsoever. The courts in Massachusetts, the supreme court was the body that decided that all times if there was any subsidy of health care in Massachusetts that one received abortion care. That was not done by the legislature. Would not be done by me either. I would have vetoed such a thing. That was done by the courts, not by the legislature or by me.
Number two, it’s true, somewhere in that bill of ours, 70 pages, there’s the mention of the word Planned Parenthood, but it describes a person at a technical advisory board about payment structures. There’s no requirement or no participation of Planned Parenthood in our health care plan.
With regards to judges, I appointed probably 50 or 60 judges, at the trial court level mostly, the great majority. These were former prosecutors, 80 percent of them former prosecutors. We don’t have a litmus test for appointing judges, asking them if they’re pro-life or not pro-life. These are people going after crimes and — and — and the like. I didn’t get to appoint any supreme court justices.
I am pro-life. And the Massachusetts Citizens for Life and several other family-oriented groups wrote a letter two weeks ago and said they’d watched my record, that I was an avidly pro-life governor. I’m a pro-life governor. I am a pro-life individual.
And — and I — I have to be honest here. It is — this is not the time to be doubting people’s words or questioning their integrity. I’m pro-life.
By the way, is there any possibility that I’ve ever made a mistake in that regard, I didn’t see something that I should have seen? Possibly. But you can count on me as president of the United States to pursue a policy that protects the life of the unborn, whether here in this country or overseas. And I’ll reverse the policies of this president.
KING: Mr. Speaker, he says you’re questioning his integrity.
GINGRICH: I’ll yield to Senator Santorum.
SANTORUM: I just want to make one point. And a lot of legislatures here — legislators here in the room and they — and they know this to be the truth, that if you write a piece of legislation and you — and you say medical care and you do not specifically mention that abortion is not covered, we know from every court decision at the state and federal levels that the federal courts and state courts will require it.
That is someone (sic) every governor knows, every state legislator knows. And so when Governor Romney did not put that in the bill, you can’t say, “Oh, gee, surprise, the court made us cover abortions.” He knew very well that the court would make them cover abortions. That’s number one.
Number — number two, what we’re talking about here is someone who’s not going to just check the boxes and say, “Yes, I’m pro-life.”
We’ve got a lot of folks who just whisper into the microphone that they’re pro-life, and then you have other people who go out and fight the battle and defend life and come out of the trenches and actually work to make sure that the dignity of every human life, innocent human life in this country is protected.
And I’ve done that.
And I — and I would say to you in — in contrast with Speaker Gingrich, who on the social issues, in particular when he was speaker and even afterwards, they were pushed on the back bench. There was a pledge to America that the Congress tried to put together in 2010. I got phone calls ringing off the hook that Speaker Gingrich went in and told them, “Keep social issues out of the pledge to America for the 2010 elections, and we need you to come in and help to try to convince these folks to put that back into the pledge.”
We don’t need someone who in the back rooms is going to say social issues in the front — are in the back of the bus, and then come out here and try to prevent they’re pro-life.
KING: Governor Romney and then Speaker Gingrich, he mentioned (inaudible). Very quickly.
ROMNEY: Senator, I — I admire the fact that you’ve been a stalwart defender of — of pro-life and in a state where that’s not easy. I was also a governor in a state where being pro-life was not easy. And I — and I battled hard. What came to my desk was a piece of legislation that said “We’re going to redefine when life begins.” In our state, we said life began at conception. The legislature wanted to change that to say, “No, we’re going to do it an implantation.” I vetoed that.
The legislature also said, “We want to allow cloning for purposes of — of creating new embryos for testing.” I vetoed that. The legislature did not want to abstinence education. I pushed and pursued abstinence education. There was an effort to also have a morning-after pill provided to, as I recall, young women in their teens. I can’t remember the exact age. I vetoed that.
I stood as a pro-life governor and that’s why the Massachusetts Pro-Life Family Association supported my record as governor, endorsed my record as governor. I — I did my very best to be a pro-life governor. I will be a pro-life president. I’m proud of that. I wrote about it in my book. My record is — is solid.
I appreciate your record. I hope you’ll appreciate mine.
KING: Mr. Speaker, he — he mentioned you specifically, and then we want to move on, but please respond.
GINGRICH: Well, the fact is that I voted with Henry Hyde, who was the leading pro-life advocate in the House for a generation. I had a 98.6 percent pro-life voting record. The only one we disagreed on was welfare reform, which they scored for reasons we never understood. Otherwise, it was a perfect record on — on pro-life.
When I was speaker, we twice passed a bill that actually Rick was — was very active in, to end partial-birth abortion. Twice, it was vetoed by Clinton, but twice we passed it.
In the 2010 election, the freshman class has the highest percentage of pro-life members ever in history, and my job was to maximize their winning. And the fact is, we won a huge victory in 2010 with the largest number of pro-life members ever elected in a freshman class.
KING: All right, let’s move on. Let’s take another question.
Congressman, I’ll (inaudible) on this one. Let’s — let’s take a question now from social media. Question — (inaudible), before we move on, do you want in on this issue? They want you in on this issue. Would you like in on this issue?
PAUL: John, once again, it’s a medical subject and I’m a doctor.
No, I do want to make a couple of comments because I can remember the very early years studying obstetrics and I was told — and it was before the age of abortion. And I was told taking care of a woman that’s pregnant, you have two patients. And I think that’s — that solves a lot of the problems of life — you know, when life begins and all.
And I also experienced a time later on in my training, in the 1960s when the culture was changing. The Vietnam War was going on. The drugs were there and pornography and everything came in. And abortion became prevalent, even though it was illegal. So the morality of the country changed, but then the law followed up. When the morality changed, it will — reflects on the laws.
The law is very important. We shouldn’t have these laws, but law will not correct the basic problem, and that’s the morality of the people that we must do.
Now, just very, very briefly, I want to talk a little bit about that funding because the flaw there is if you — if you send funding out and you say, “Well, you can have it for birth control, but not for abortion,” all funds are fungible. Even funds that go to any hospital if you say, “Well, it’s not for birth control and it’s not for Planned Parenthood and it’s not for abortion,” if you send it to the hospital, they can still use that money.
This is an indictment of government-run medicine because you never can sort that all out. You need the government out of that business or you will always argue over who’s paying what bills.
KING: Very quickly, Senator.
SANTORUM: I think that was directed at me, and so I would just say this. Congressman Paul has a national right-to-life voting record of 50 percent, which is pretty much what Harry Reid’s national right to life voting record is.
So for — to go out and say that you’re someone who stands up for the right to life, you repeatedly vote against bills on a federal level to promote the right to life. And you say that this is an individual, a personal decision, or state decision. Life should be protected, and you should have the willingness to stand up on a federal law and every level of government and protect what our Declaration protects, which is the right of our creator to life, and that is a federal issue, not a state issue.
KING: Quickly, sir.
PAUL: Just for the record, I wasn’t even thinking about you when I was giving my statement, so you are overly sensitive.
PAUL: But it is true that we have a disagreement on how we approach it. I follow what my understanding is of the Constitution. And it does allow for the states to deal with difficult problems.
A matter of fact, it allows the states to deal with almost all the problems if you look at it. It is not given — these powers aren’t given to the Congress.
I see abortion as a violent act. All other violence is handled by the states — murder, burglary, violence. That’s a state issue.
So don’t try to say that I’m less pro-life because I want to be particular about the way we do it and allow the states the prerogative. This is the solution. This is the solution. Because if we would allow the states to write their laws, take away the jurisdiction by a majority vote in the Congress, you repeal Roe versus Wade overnight, instead of waiting year after year to change the court system.