Politico: Romney won't sign abortion pledge

This article first appeared online at Politico on June 17, 2011.

Romney won’t sign abortion pledge
By: Kendra Marr
Five Republican presidential candidates have signed a pledge to advance the anti-abortion movement if elected to the White House, but the current front runner for the 2012 GOP nomination — Mitt Romney — isn’t one of them.

Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum each signed the pledge, sponsored by Susan B. Anthony List, vowing to nominate judges and appoint executive branch officials who are opposed to abortion. The pledge also commit signers to push legislation to end all taxpayer funding of abortion and to sign a law to “protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.”

Mitt Romney, who’s leading in national and early state opinion polls, declined to sign.

“Governor Romney pledged in the last campaign that he would be a pro-life president and of course he pledges it today,” said 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.”

Saul said that Romney, who publicly supported abortion rights in his 1994 Senate and 2002 gubernatorial campaigns, was concerned that the pledge would “strip taxpayer funding from thousands of health care facilities” and that it “strictly limits the choices” in appointing federal officials.

The pledge calls for legislation to defund Planned Parenthood – already a rallying point for the social conservative movement – and to cut funding to “all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions.”

While it’s difficult to evaluate the full scope of the various avenues of defunding, Planned Parenthood offers one window into how this proposal might affect the health care landscape. Planned Parenthood performed 328,300 abortions in 2008, accounting for about a quarter of the 1.21 million abortions that year, according to statistics from the Guttmacher Institute. Those abortions made up just 3 percent of the patient services it offered in 2008.

It also locks candidates into selecting abortion opponents for “relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Justice.”

That would exclude Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Tom Ridge from serving a president who signed the pledge.

Santorum took the opportunity to go on the attack, after passing on a chance to attack the front runner in Monday’s debate.

“I gave him the benefit of the doubt,” said Santorum in an emailed statement. “I apparently spoke too soon. It is incredibly disappointing that Governor Romney chose not to defend those who cannot defend themselves.”

Other than Romney, two other GOP presidential hopefuls — Herman Cain and Gary Johnson — also declined to sign the pledge, according to the group. The SBA List’s announcement did not say whether or not former Ambassador Jon Huntsman was asked to sign.

Cain has said he opposes abortion and that he supports cutting funds for Planned Parenthood. Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, has staked out a libertarian position on many issues, including reproductive health — favoring choice but also insisting government shouldn’t encourage abortion. “A woman should be allowed to make her own decisions during pregnancy until the point of viability of a fetus,” says a statement on his campaign website.

“Any ‘truce’ on social issues is not viable, nor is it acceptable to the grassroots,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.

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