NEW ORLEANS – Five of the Republican presidential candidates have signed a pledge to advance the anti-abortion agenda in the White House, but the man currently leading the field – Mitt Romney – declined.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader in congressional efforts to curtail abortion access, criticized Romney for blowing off the Pro-Life pledge by the activist group Susan B. Anthony List. It stood out from the recent hands-off tactics of the candidates toward one another.
“This past Monday night in the debate I was asked about Gov. Romney’s pro-life conversion, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt,” Santorum said in a statement. “I apparently spoke too son. It is incredibly disappointing that Gov. Romney chose not to defend those who cannot defend themselves.”
Romney, however, says he is committed to the anti-abortion cause but believes that the SBA List’s pledge could have unforeseen negative consequences if he were to abide by it as president.
The pledge is a promise to nominate only judges who oppose abortion rights and to appoint executive-branch officials committed to opposing abortion. It also requires signees to pledge to strip federal funding from health organizations that provide abortions.
“Governor Romney pledged in the last campaign that he would be a pro-life president and of course he pledges it today,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement. “However, this well-intentioned effort has some potentially unforeseen consequences and he does not feel he could in good conscience sign it. Gov. Romney has been a strong supporter of the SBA List in the past and he looks forward to continue working with them to promote a culture of life.”
The provision to deny federal funds to any entity that performs abortion or has an affiliate that does could devastate the Veterans Administration hospital system and thousands of other health-care agencies that receive some federal money, Saul said. In addition, the litmus test for appointments would deprive a Romney administration of some talented moderate Republican figures, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or retired General Colin Powell.
Romney supported abortion rights in his 1994 Senate and 2002 gubernatorial campaigns, but shifted to an anti-abortion rights stance before running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
Herman Cain, the former pizza executive and talk-show host, did not sign the pledge either, though he has expressed support for SBA List’s goals. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson says that a woman should be free to make her own decision on abortion until the point a fetus is viable outside the womb.
Former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican who is an official with SBA List, praised the signers – Santorum; Rep. Michelle Bachmann; Newt Gingrich; Tim Pawlenty; and Rep. Ron Paul.
“Mere lip service to protecting women and the unborn is not enough,” Musgrave said. “It must be backed up by concrete action.”