GOP Candidates Press Pro-Life Themes at CPAC Conference

Politics   |   Andrew Bair   |   Feb 11, 2012   |   1:38PM   |   Washington, DC

A frequent criticism of the Conservative Political Action Conference is its supposed lack of attention to pro-life issues. However, by the second day of the event, which draws over 11,000 conservative activists, it was clear right to life issues were not forgotten by key speakers or lost on attendees.

Friday kicked off with pro-life Governor Mike Huckabee, who also attended CPAC in order to attend a screening of his documentary “The Gift of Life.”

Following the film, a panel featured pro-life leaders, which gathered to discuss current pro-life issues The panel, moderated by Lila Rose, included Carol Tobias, President of National Right to Life, Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life, Kristan Hawkins, Executive Director of Students for Life of America and pro-life speaker Rebecca Kiessling.

The panel delved into issues ranging from Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood to the recent fight over conscience rights. The headline of the discussion was “Advancing the Pro-Life Movement in the Media” and each of the speakers commented on the importance of using social media to share the pro-life message. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter give pro-life advocates the chance to operate outside of the restraints of the biased mainstream media. This technology gives pro-lifers the chance to engage their peers and share the truth about abortion across a wider network than ever before.

The second day of the conference also included Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. McDonnell is well respected among Virginia pro-life advocates after signing key pro-life legislation during his first term in office including a law that holds abortion facilities to common sense health standards to protect women and their children. Many are speculating McDonnell could end up the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in November. On the presidential race, McDonnell was not shy about touting his support for Mitt Romney, the candidate he endorsed earlier this year. Top Gingrich endorsements, Rick Perry and Herman Cain, both addressed CPAC the previous day but curiously made no mention of their choice in their remarks.

McDonnell’s plug for Romney came just minutes before Rick Santorum took the stage. Santorum received a warm reception from the CPAC crowd as he approached the podium flanked by members of his family. Santorum, who is already well regarded among pro-life advocates, decided to focus his remarks instead on pressing economic issues.

However, he did take an opportunity to hit President Obama on his pro-abortion health care law and call for its swift repeal. National polls are showing Santorum carrying a national lead over his Republican opponents after wins in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado last week. Momentum is clearly on Santorum’s side, especially among those on the far right. With the results of the Maine caucus being unveiled on Saturday, Santorum needs another win to solidify his standing in the contest and finally pick up some delegates.

Ann Coulter, one of the conference’s most anticipated speakers every year, fired up the audience with hard-hitting one-liners on President Obama’s failed policies. She was especially strong on Obamacare, reminding CPAC that the 2012 elections are the only chance we have of repealing the pro-abortion law. Echoing sentiments of many pro-life leaders, Coulter called for unity within the conservative movement and to unite behind the candidate ultimately chosen to take on President Obama.

While some on the right remark that they are not particularly pleased with the slate of Republican candidates for president, Coulter told CPAC to be encouraged by this particular field. Among the remaining four candidates, all hold a pro-life view. Just four years ago, Rudy Giuliani posed a great threat to the pro-life movement in which voters would have had to decide between two pro-abortion candidates in the general election.

Shortly after Coulter, Governor Mitt Romney took the stage to enthusiastic applause. (Even Romney himself seemed taken aback by the unexpected level of support among the CPAC audience.) His remarks ignited the crowd, drawing standing ovations when describing repealing Obamacare as “the most important spending cut of all” or asserting, “Obama is the poster child of the arrogance of government.”

Romney devoted the most time of any of the presidential candidates to pro-life concerns in his CPAC speech. He boldly declared that his presidency would be “a pro-life presidency.” He noted his pro-life actions as Governor of Massachusetts including vetoing pro-embryonic experimentation legislation, vetoing a Plan B expansion bill and supporting abstinence education. Not easy tasks in one of the nation’s most liberal states.

Laying out his pro-life plan as president, Romney called for reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which prevents tax dollars from funding abortions overseas, cutting funding to the UNFPA, which aids in carrying out China’s barbaric One Child Policy of forced abortions, and de-funding Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Romney addressed the concerns over conscience rights raised by the recent HHS mandate, vowing to reverse Obama Administration regulations that attack religious liberty and innocent human life.

A panel featuring prominent pro-life conservative women like Star Parker, S.E. Cupp and Michelle Duggar and Kate Obenshain devoted time to discussing some of the failures of the modern feminist movement, which in many ways has thrown women under the bus in favor of the abortion industry. The recent Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle proved to be a clear example. The nation’s leading breast cancer charity continues to fund Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the nation’s largest abortion provider does not even provide mammograms and evidence has shown abortion may actually cause breast cancer. Star Parker garnered enthusiastic applause when she called on conservatives to stop donating to Susan G. Komen on account of their dealings with Planned Parenthood.

Newt Gingrich took the stage next. Like Romney, Gingrich discussed several pro-life issues. He called for the repeal of Obamacare on first day in office, a reinstated Mexico City Policy and a complete undoing of all President Obama’s violations of the religious freedom and conscience rights. As always, Newt connected with the audience while taking jabs at the mainstream media but overall the speech failed to outshine those of his opponents. Gingrich proved in debates to be quick on his feet with one-liners that left the moderators on edge. But the stump speech format does not give Gingrich the chance to unleash that quick wit. Without a recent debate and after a streak of primary and caucus losses, Gingrich has sunk in the polls. Perhaps the results of the Maine caucus or the CPAC presidential straw poll, which are both to be unveiled later Saturday, will provide him with a needed boost in momentum and delegates.