As Economic Concerns Remain High, Mitt Romney, Others Tackle Abortion
Life ethics issues like abortion have not defined campaign debates so far, with economic issues taking the lead and hot-button topics like Social Security and immigration also taking center stage. In an interview with Mike Huckabee on Fox News, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tackled abortion over the weekend, calling himself "pro-life" and later earning praise from Pat Robertson.
"[It would] be wonderful if everyone in the country agreed with you and me that life begins in conception and that there's a sanctity of life that's part of a civilized society and that we're all going to agree there should not be legal abortion in the nation," Romney said. "But I don't think that's where we are right now. But I do think where the majority of the American people would go is say let the states make the decisions."
Romney's position on abortion as governor of Massachusetts took a similar stance toward state's rights. As governor, he protected his state's pro-choice laws, pledging he would not impose his views on the majority. However, he also said during his time in office his personal views "evolved and deepened" to become more conservative.
Over the weekend, Romney said he would "absolutely" have supported a a constitutional amendment to establish the definition of the beginning of life as conception, but that it would not have made it past the 85 percent Democratic state legislature.
Romney stopped short of saying he would support such an amendment as president.
"I'd make sure the progress that's been made to provide for life and to protect human life would not be progress that is reversed," he said.
He said as president he would specifically appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would "have a conviction to follow the law and not create the law from the bench," with an eye to reversing Roe v. Wade and returning decisions about the legality of abortion back to the individual states.
The forum appeared to signal a deliberate shift toward addressing socially conservative voters on Romney's part. Agreeing to an interview with Huckabee was an interesting choice for Romney, since his Mormon faith was one point of controversy between the two rivals in 2008.
Romney has dismissed his Mormonism as a potential stumbling block to his 2012 campaign, saying most voters have moved on from it. This weekend, broadcaster Pat Robertson called Romney "an outstanding Christian," sidestepping what other evangelicals consider foundational doctrinal concerns. Robertson, as head of the Christian Coalition, endorsed Romney's competitor Rudy Giuliani in 2008 but does not plan to endorse this year, and Romney has not acquired any unusual endorsements from evangelical leaders.
Romney has steered clear of social issues for the most part in his campaign so far, instead focusing on the economy and his unique experience as a candidate due to his work in the private sector. He refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony Pro-life Pledge, which has been signed by most of the other major GOP candidates, with the exception of Herman Cain.
"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," Romney wrote in a June op-ed explaining his stance. "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. That is why I could not sign it."
Herman Cain offered a similar reason, saying he could not sign the pledge because the job of the president is not to push legislation. The pledge asks signers to commit to pushing legislation to end abortion, as well as nominate judges and appoint executive branch officials who are opposed to abortion. Cain has never held office and does not have a record to defend, but says he opposes all abortion rights, even in cases of rape or incest, a position he has held publicly since 2004.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) defined the pro-life stance as a "foundational issue" in the presidential race during a campaign event in Iowa this week.
"We can't forget what truly is the foundational issue which is the right to life," she said. "And I have always stood for that right and as president of the United States I will stand for life from conception until natural death."
The comments precede all the major candidates' participation in the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit this weekend, a series of speaking events targeting a largely evangelical audience.