Mitt Romney is seen as the Republican frontrunner for the White House in 2012. However, being king of the hill usually means someone wants to knock them off their perch. Romney’s challengers are now launching attacks for his refusal to sign the Susan B. Anthony pro-life pledge.
Candidates are routinely asked to sign pledges ranging from a promise not to raise taxes to a commitment to support green standards in building codes. But few draw the ire of pro-life voters when candidates refuse to sign pledges to restrict abortion.
The Anthony pledge asks candidates for their promise to only nominate or support judicial candidates who are pro-life, to select only pro-life cabinet members and to support legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
So far, five of the Republican presidential candidates have signed the pledge. They include former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Romney is not alone in his refusal to sign. Atlanta Businessman Herman Cain has not signed, citing the inability of the executive branch to provide funding or ban the procedure. Recently announced candidate Jon Huntsman has not yet signed the Anthony pledge and regardless of his decision to do so, his moderate positions will directly complete with Romney’s moderate base of supporters.
Yet it’s Romney refusal that has drawn the most attention. Santorum and Bachmann were the first to issue statements.
“This past Monday night at the Republican Presidential Debate, I was asked about Governor Romney’s pro-life conversion, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I apparently spoke to soon,” said Santorum in a statement issued Monday.
Bachmann wasted little time in going after Romney, saying, “The excuses for not signing clearly continue the doubts about his leadership and commitment to ending the practice of abortion – particularly for a candidate who ran as pro-choice for the Senate and governorship of Massachusetts,” Bachman said in her statement.
The source of the attacks is in no doubt due to Romney’s former pro-choice position.
In a 2007 interview with Fox News when asked of his remarks in support of protecting a woman’s right to choose, Romney compared himself to previous Republican presidents, saying, “Yes, that’s right. But when I became governor I laid out in my view that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of life. And you know what? I’m following in some pretty good footsteps. It’s exactly what Ronald Regan did. As governor, he was adamantly pro-choice. He became pro-life as he experienced life. And the same thing happened with George H.W. Bush.”
The former senator of Missouri and a top Romney adviser was called on to defend his candidate’s position and refusal to sign the pledge.
“He’s strongly pro-life. He just affirmed it again and it’s on our website, a whole array of pro-life positions that went further, I think, than the pledge went,” Talent told Fox News on Monday. “He (Romney) doesn’t want to say he’s disqualified from considering people who may not agree with him in everything on that issue for a job like FBI director.”
Still, social conservatives are leery of candidates waffling on “values” issues, and when it comes to abortion, there is no middle ground.
Karen McNeil, a pro-life advocate and board member of Life Choices of Memphis, a Christian pregnancy-counseling center, expressed her concerns over Romney’s abortion stance.
“Sometimes candidates make pledges on economic issues and when things change, they find themselves having to go back on their original promise – like former President Bush did in the early ‘90s,” said McNeil. “But some issues have nuisances associated with them, and I believe when it comes to abortion, you’re either pro-life or you’re not.”
Conservative leaders such as Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, and McNeil feel social issues are directly tied to economic issues.
“If a candidate is not willing to put their signature on the abortion issue, I’m not sure I can trust them on other issues,” McNeil added.