(Photo: Reuters / Sean Gardner)
Presidential candidates seeking to become the Republican nominee to face President Obama in next year's election spoke at the National Right to Life Committee convention on Friday. Rick Santorum and Herman Cain were at the event while Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Tim Pawlenty spoke via Skype.
According to Matt Dixon, a reporter for The Florida Times-Union who was live-blogging the event, Santorum received the most enthusiastic support from the audience in convention in Jacksonville, Fla. Santorum was considered one of the leading pro-life voices in the U.S. Senate when he represented Pennsylvania from 1995-2006.
Santorum praised the work of those in attendance and compared them to the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement saying that they are all “faith-driven” movements. He closed his remarks with comments about his daughter.
“In her I see how the Creator sees me,” he said, according to LifeNews.com. “I love her unconditionally, not because she did anything but because she is. She is disabled, but in the eyes of God we are badly disabled. I am fighting for every child to ensure their rights continue in America.”
Cain, the only black candidate in the race, also drew upon the Civil Rights Movement noting that Martin Luther King, Jr. “not only changed hearts of this nation, but of this world.” As Cain left the stage, a crowd member yelled, “We’ve got the wrong black president!”
Paul, a former OBGYN, supports allowing states to regulate abortion, a position out of step with some in the pro-life movement who would prefer to see abortion banned nationwide. He reiterated this position saying that he would, as a member of the U.S. House, introduce the “We The People Act” which would put abortion regulation in the hands of the states.
In a remark perhaps aimed at his fellow libertarians, Paul said, “Liberty is secondary to life.” Paul was originally scheduled to be at the event in person, but appeared via Skype without explanation.
Mitt Romney, who had been pro-choice but changed his mind after becoming governor of Massachusetts, did not speak at the event. In what may have been a jab at Romney's previous pro-choice position, Bachmann said this was “not the time for Republicans to put up a candidate who is weak on this issue and has a history of flip-flopping on this issue,” according to The Huffington Post.
Romney, along with Cain and Gary Johnson, have also been criticized for not signing the Susan B. Anthony List's Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge.
Pawlenty spoke mostly of his record on abortion issues as Minnesota governor and touted a National Review Online article by Steven Ertelt of LifeNews.com, which argued that he is the most pro-life candidate in the 2012 field. Pawlenty – a favorite among evangelical leaders, a poll by the National Association of Evangelicals revealed this week – received the least amount of applause from the audience, by Dixon's estimation.
The National Right to Life Committee claims to be the oldest and largest pro-life organization in the country. It was incorporated in response to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. The NRLC convention concludes Saturday.