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Pro-lifers around the nation were surprised when Mitt Romney refused to sign the pro-life pledge distributed by the Susan B. Anthony List to all the GOP presidential candidates.
Romney has been trying to fortify his pro-life credentials since his 2008 nomination defeat to Sen. John McCain. One reason Romney fell behind McCain during the primary battles was the skepticism among pro-lifers and social conservatives about his commitment to the pro-life and pro-marriage cause. This skepticism was rooted in Romney’s actual record as governor of Massachusetts and his explicit rejection of the pro-life label during his gubernatorial race.
Romney issued his own pro-life pledge to explain his decision:
“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. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.
“The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, issued a statement expressing disappointment in Romney’s decision and her response to Romney’s version of the pledge:
“Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.”
“He seems to indicate that he wants the freedom to nominate pro-abortion candidates for key cabinet positions such as Attorney General or Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is precisely what we want to rule out and it is unacceptable.”
“He chooses to identify non-existent legislation that would defund hospitals as a reason not to sign. Defunding hospitals has never been considered by Congress, is not part of public debate, and is not part of the pledge. 95 percent of abortions are performed outside of hospitals. Instead, we outlined existing pieces of pro-life legislation that address taxpayer funding of abortion. We would like to know where he stands on each measure.”
In short, Dannenfelser rejects Romney’s argument that signing the SBA pledge would lead to the defunding of “thousands of hospitals across America.”
What Dannenfelser doesn’t say is that this argument is precisely the one being used by Planned Parenthood and its supporters to defend itself against the growing movement to withhold state and federal funding from its abortion clinics.
What Romney himself admits is that he doesn’t want to give up the option of appointing pro-abortion members of his administration to positions like Secretary of Health and Human Services, if elected president.
It remains to be seen how pro-lifers in the grassroots will react to Romney’s decision to ignore the SBA List pledge. Some may view it as a simple disagreement among friends, as Romney obviously wants it to be seen, others may see it as another example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.