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Mitt Romney Under Fire From Conservatives on Abortion Pledge

June 19, 2011 - 6:00pm

While polls show him as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is starting to feel the heat from pro-life leaders.

The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), a PAC looking to elect pro-life women to office, circulated a pledge to the Republican presidential candidates committing them against naming judicial activists to the federal bench; ensuring that the U.S. attorney general and the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services were pro-life; ending taxpayer funding of abortion and Planned Parenthood; and backing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Most of the Republican presidential candidates signed the pledge -- save for Romney, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and businessman Herman Cain, a favorite of the tea party movement.

We applaud those candidates who did sign the pledge for vowing to support and advance the protection of life at all stages if elected to the White House, said SBA List Project Director Marilyn Musgrave, a former congresswoman from Colorado.Their signatures demonstrate that mere lip-service to protecting women and the unborn is not enough -- it must be backed up by concrete action.

The conviction and resolve of these candidates answers grass-roots hunger for authentic leadership, insisted Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the SBA List. Any truce on social issues is not viable, nor is it acceptable to the grass roots.

Dannenfelser followed up with a shot at President Barack Obama.

As one of the most activist presidents on abortion in history protects political allies like Planned Parenthood and continually appoints activist federal judges, the situation demands a strong leader who will advance consensus and life-affirming legislation and policy at all levels, she added.

Romney defended himself in a piece published by iconic conservative journal National Review.

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, insisted Romney. I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.

I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services, added Romney. I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries.This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world. I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion. And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.

Romney noted that he had concerns with the pledge being backed by the SBA List.

As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences, insisted Romney. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.

The pledge also unduly burdens a presidents ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views, noted Romney in closing. If I have the opportunity to serve as our nations next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America.

Romneys statement did nothing to mollify the SBA List leaders.

Our next president must recognize the urgency of addressing over a million abortions per year, said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

Thats why our pledge calls for active leadership, not just checking the box. Five candidates took the pledge, and the pro-life grass roots know where they stand. Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest. He seems to indicate that he wants the freedom to nominate pro-abortion candidates for key Cabinet positions such as attorney general or secretary of Health and Human Services. This is precisely what we want to rule out and it is unacceptable.

He chooses to identify nonexistent legislation that would defund hospitals as a reason not to sign. Defunding hospitals has never been considered by Congress, is not part of public debate, and is not part of the pledge. Ninety-five percent of abortions are performed outside of hospitals. Instead, we outlined existing pieces of pro-life legislation that address taxpayer funding of abortion. We would like to know where he stands on each measure, continued Dannenfelser. States across the country are passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which provides protection for unborn babies capable of feeling pain. The grass roots need to know if Governor Romney would advance and sign a federal version into law.

One of Romneys rivals, who did sign the pledge, took aim at him on Saturday.

"This past Monday night at the Republican presidential debate, I was asked about Governor Romney's pro-life conversion, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt, said former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. I apparently spoke too soon. It is incredibly disappointing that Governor Romney chose not to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Santorum and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who also signed the pledge, will be speaking in Jacksonville on Friday at the National Right-to-Life Convention. So will Cain who did not sign it.

Romney had been a supporter of legal abortion during his failed bid to knock off Teddy Kennedy back in 1994 and in his successful bid to become governor of Massachusetts back in 2002. However, he shifted over to a pro-life position -- just in time, critics noted, to run for the Republican presidential nomination -- a point his primary rivals have seized on.

"It is distressing that Governor Romney refuses to sign the SBA pledge, even while claiming to be pro-life, fired away Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a dark-horse candidate who is starting to show momentum in the polls. The excuses for not signing clearly continue the doubts about his leadership and commitment to ending the practice of abortion particularly for a candidate who ran as pro-choice for the Senate and governorship of Massachusetts. Any presidential candidate seeking our party's nomination should sign the SBA pledge and vow to protect life from conception to natural death. Governor Romney should reconsider his decision not to sign the pledge just as he reconsidered his position on the life issue during the last campaign.

The candidates who have signed the pledge so far are Bachmann, Paul, Santorum, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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