Romney, Santorum Pressed on Homosexuality, Contraception, Abortion at GOP Debate

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  • Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
    (Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
    Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) listens as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during the Republican presidential candidates debate in Concord, New Hampshire, January 8, 2012.
By Napp Nazworth, Christian Post Reporter
January 9, 2012|12:10 pm

In two Republican presidential debates over the weekend, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum discussed their positions on gay rights, the right to privacy and abortion rights.

In Saturday night's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked about a constitutional right to privacy, but couched it in terms of a right to contraception, which led to some confusing and humorous exchanges with Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

“George, this is an unusual topic you're raising ... I can't imagine a state banning contraception,” Romney said and added that he would oppose any effort to ban contraception.

Stephanopoulos pressed again, as if Romney had not answered his question. “Do you believe states have that right [to ban contraception] or not?”

Romney, with a perplexed look on his face, answered, “George, I don't know whether a state has the right to ban contraception. No state wants to. The idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do and asking whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing I think.”

The audience laughed and applauded Romney's answer.

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In 1965, the Supreme Court, in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, struck down a Connecticut law banning contraception. The court argued that a right to privacy is in the “penumbras” of the Constitution, meaning the right is implied, not explicit.

Those penumbras, the Supreme Court said in its ruling, are the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, the restriction, found in the Third Amendment, that the government cannot require citizens to quarter troops in their home, the Search and Seizure Clause of the Fourth Amendment, and the immunity against self-incrimination found in the Fifth Amendment.

The Griswold decision later became the foundation of Roe v. Wade (1973), which said that women have a right to an abortion because of their right to privacy.

Romney said he does not believe the cases of Griswold or Roe were decided correctly. If Americans want to add a right to privacy to the Constitution, they can do so through the amendment process, Romney argued, but judges should not find rights that are not explicitly in the Constitution.

Stephanopoulos continued to press Romney on whether states should be allowed to ban contraception. Romney, still looking perplexed, again asked Stephanopoulos why he would ask about states having a right to do something no state wants to do. The question Stephanopoulos was supposedly trying to get answered, but he never explicitly asked, was whether there is a right to privacy found in the Constitution, as the Supreme Court decided in Griswold.

“Contraception? It's working just fine. Just leave it alone,” Romney said.

The audience booed when Stephanopoulos said that Romney had given two answers to the question. He asked yet again, “do you believe the Supreme Court should overturn it or not?”

Stephanopoulos was likely asking about the right to privacy in Griswold, but Romney answered regarding a right to abortion, saying, “do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes, I do.”

While Romney said he thought Griswold and Roe were wrongly decided, and Roe should be overturned, he did not clarify whether or not he thinks Griswold should be overturned.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul argued the right to privacy is implied by the Fourth Amendment's Search and Seizure Clause. Paul did not specify, though, whether or not he thought Griswold was correctly decided.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said he agreed with Paul that there is a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment, but Griswold and Roe were wrongly decided because the Supreme Court “created through a penumbra of rights a new right to privacy that was not in the Constitution.”

“I do not believe that we have a right in this country, in the Constitution, to take a human life. I don't think our Founders envisioned that. I don't think the writing of the Constitution anywhere enables that,” Santorum added.

Less than 12 hours later, the candidates had another debate on Sunday morning's “Meet the Press” on NBC.

A moderator reminded Romney that in 1994 he did an interview with a gay newspaper in which he said he would foster anti-discrimination efforts against gays in the Republican Party.

“How have you stood up for gay rights and when have you used your voice to influence Republicans on this issue?” Romney was asked.

Romney pointed out that he did not discriminate based upon sexual orientation in his cabinet and court appointments as governor, but also does not favor same-sex marriage.

“When was the last time you spoke out for increasing gay rights?” the moderator asked.

“Right now,” answered Romney, causing the audience to laugh and applaud.

The moderator also asked Santorum if he would be a voice for gay rights in his party.

Santorum said he would be a voice for making sure that every person “is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity,” but does not support same-sex marriage or allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

Santorum made a distinction between being respectful of someone and disagreeing with them. “Just because you don't agree with someone's desire to change the law doesn't mean you don't like them, or you hate them, or you want to discriminate against them.”

Santorum was also asked what he would do if he had a son tell him he was gay.

The crowd applauded as Santorum answered, “I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it, and I would do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”

The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Romney leads in the most recent Suffolk University poll in that state with 35 percent support.

Contact: napp.nazworth@christianpost.com
 

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