The Susan B. Anthony List 2012 Pro-life Pledge reflects the sort of conviction and authenticity we must demand from any candidate who says they are pro-life, especially one seeking the Presidency. No longer can the lives of our unborn children be considered merely a "social issue." We need candidates who will not hesitate to sign on the dotted line that nothing and no one will persuade them to postpone or abandon the fight to protect children in the womb.
The Republican candidates
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - In perhaps the first public test of the GOP candidates' pro-life mettle, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson have declined to sign the Pro-Life Pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.
SBA List put forth the following pledge and asked the presidential hopefuls to sign it:
- Only nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;
- Select pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Justice;
- Advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions, and;
- Advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.
Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann have all signed the pledge.
The pledge reflects the level of commitment the pro-life community requires from anyone claiming to be pro-life and seeking the nation's highest office. It's simply not enough for a candidate to say he or she is pro-life; it's not enough to make statements to the press using some pro-life lingo; it's not enough to be pro-life-lite. No longer can the lives of our unborn children be categorized as a mere "social issue."
The pro-life community in America cannot be played anymore by candidates who say all the right things with just the right amount of zeal in order to win votes. We need candidates who will not hesitate to sign on the dotted line that nothing and no one will persuade them to postpone or abandon the fight to protect children in the womb. We need candidates who are not ashamed or reluctant to be known as unequivocally pro-life and are willing to take the heat that comes from the opposition.
Only those candidates who truly understand our obligation to revere and protect human life from conception to natural death will be willing to endure the hostility and slander they'll get in this pivotal 2012 election.
Is Mitt Romney such a candidate? Is Herman Cain? They both expressed concerns about the pledge and gave their reasons for not signing it. Cain said his reservation was with the 4th part of the pledge: "The fourth requirement demands that I "advance" the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. As president, I would sign it, but Congress must advance the legislation. I have been a consistent and unwavering champion of pro-life issues. In no way does this singular instance of clarification denote an abandonment of the pro-life movement, but instead, is a testament to my respect for the balance of power and the role of the presidency."
The trouble with Herman Cain is that his fidelity to Life is really an unknown. He has no voting record to back up or disprove his claim. He seems genuine and sincere, and I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. His qualms with the pledge are, I think, hair-splitting semantics. The President can certainly lead and in that way help "advance" important legislation. Of course Congress must write and pass the bill, but the President must lead and provide vision, clarity and commitment. I'd like to think Cain understands that, so in that case, why not sign the pledge?
The trouble with Mitt Romney is Mitt Romney. His fidelity to Life can quite legitimately be questioned. He claims with conviction to be pro-life today, but he very passionately insisted that he was wholeheartedly pro-choice only a few years ago in his previous elections. So which is it? Is he playing the pro-life community in order to win some valuable votes? Or has he genuinely seen the error of his past ways and been truly converted?
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul gave his reason for not signing the pledge: "Governor Romney pledged in the last campaign that he would be a pro-life president and of course he pledges it today. However, this well intentioned effort has some potentially unforeseen consequences and he does not feel he could in good conscience sign it."
What unforeseen consequences? Romney released his own pro-life pledge at National Review Online where he explained, "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." He went on to say he believes the pledge "unduly burdens a president's ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government."
Whether an abortion is done at Planned Parenthood or a local community hospital makes no moral difference. It should not be funded with taxpayer money, period. It is not a "medical procedure." It's the killing of an innocent child. Why are we paying for it?
Romney's second objection is even more troubling. Is he implying he wants the freedom to appoint pro-choice cabinet members, say perhaps a pro-choice Secretary of Health & Human Services if that person is the "most qualified" in his mind? If Romney is truly committed to Life, why would he want to surround himself with people who think killing the child in the womb is a "choice"? Why is he squeamish about making a commitment to pro-life voters that he will appoint pro-life cabinet members? The Obama administration has surely demonstrated that such appointees are vital in accomplishing a President's agenda.
Romney said in his statement that he would be committed to building a culture of Life in America, but that is impossible to do if the appointed people in positions of influence and power believe abortion is a "right." He must know that, so this sounds to me like someone who's hedging his bets.
This is one of those moments where the rubber meets the road. When it's crunch time, will Romney put his money where his mouth is and keep his promises to protect our youngest neighbors? Is it really Life that matters to him, or is it winning the Presidency? We cannot afford a President who is not unreservedly, unhesitatingly committed to the sanctity of all human life.
It is heartening to know that five of the GOP candidates have signed the SBA List Pledge. It takes courage to say, in writing, that you will protect unborn children with every means at your disposal, knowing full well there will be a political price to pay. Yet that is exactly the sort of conviction and authenticity we must demand from any candidate who says they are pro-life, especially one seeking the Presidency.
Thank you Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.
Rick Santorum has responded to Mitt Romney's objections to the pledge over at National Review Online.
Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and homeschooling mother of three. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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