GREER, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Abortion has become the key point of contention between Republican candidates as the presidential race turns from New Hampshire to heavily evangelical South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich has highlighted Romney’s abortion stances in an ad entitled “Changed.” The narrator asks:

What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his position from pro- abortion to pro-life? He governed pro-abortion. Romney appointed a pro-abortion judge, expanded access to abortion pills, put Planned Parenthood on a state medical board but failed to put a pro-life group on the same board. And Romney signed government-mandated health care with taxpayer-funded abortion.

Gingrich introduced the abortion ad after a series of attacks on Romney’s history with Bain Capital failed to win him wider support.

Romney’s “Restore Our Future PAC” responded with a piece of direct mail in Florida, stating, “Newt Gingrich co-sponsored a bill with Nancy Pelosi to give $60 million annually to the UN Population Fund,” and that, as Speaker of the House, Gingrich “backed even more legislation that provided taxpayer-funded abortions.”

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“Obviously it’s important for me to remind people that I’m pro-life,” Romney told a crowd in Greer, South Carolina, where his history of shifting views on the issue continues to cost him support in the overwhelmingly pro-life state.

FactCheck.org has countered both campaigns by stating both men changed their views on the issue over the years, although the organization failed to specifically refute the factual claims about Romney’s history.

- FactCheck defended Romney from the charge that he allowed greater access to the abortion pill by noting he liberalized the distribution of “emergency contraception, or ‘the morning-after pill.’” However, Plan B can act as an abortifacient, preventing an already fertilized embryo from implanting in the uterus.

- The health care bill Romney signed resulted in subsidized abortions, allowing women to pay only $50 for the procedure. FactCheck notes the Massachusetts Supreme Court mandated the coverage decades earlier; however, Romney did nothing to oppose the provisions. Romney later called his plan, “the ultimate pro-life effort.”

- It affirms that Romney did not veto a provision in the health care bill appointing a member of Planned Parenthood to the MassHealth Payment Policy Advisory Board, but quotes Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL) President Anne Fox that: “It was not something that right to lifers were concerned about at the time. It was a minor thing.” Yet MCFL’s executive director, Marie Sturgis, said the failure to veto Planned Parenthood’s participation on the board “deeply disturbed” her. Ann Romney served as MCFL co-chairman, and Mitt donated $15,000 to the group in 2005.

- Criticisms of Romney’s pro-abortion judicial record was well-founded, the fact-checking organization agreed. Months after his pro-life conversion, Romney named Matthew J. Nestor, who described himself as a “pro-choice” Democrat, to a lifetime post on the Somerville District Court. Romney said he appointed Nestor because of his tough record on crime. 

FactCheck defended Gingrich from distortions of his record while noting his changing record on aspects of the abortion debate over his career.

It dispels the notion that Gingrich supported taxpayer-funding for China’s one-child policy. The bill in question, the “Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989,” never came before Congress for a vote. While the bill would have provided $60 million for the United Nations Population Fund, which has been found to be complicit in China’s one-child policy, it barred funds for “involuntary sterilization or abortion” and “the coercion of any person to accept family planning services.” President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, which forbade taxpayer funding of foreign abortions, was also in effect at the time. President Clinton repealed the policy in 1993. However, there remained concerns about the fungibility of the funds to UNFPA. Gingrich’s website states, “Newt supported a very limited aspect of the 1989 bill that promoted hydrogen energy research.”

However, Newt did support taxpayer-funded abortion while he was Speaker of the House. In 1995, Gingrich publicly supported “funding in the case of rape or incest, or [to save the] life of the mother,” backed funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and later offered his endorsement to Republicans who supported partial-birth abortion. The Des Moines Register reported in November, “Gingrich has switched his position on federal funding. He now thinks the government should not ask taxpayers to pay for any abortions.”

Gingrich caused a stir in December, before the Iowa caucuses, when he said life begins at “implantation,” then backpedaled to say life begins at “conception.” 

Texas Governor Rick Perry has changed his views on allowing abortion in the case of rape or incest after meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, a pro-life activist who was conceived through rape.

Republican rivals Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman are also touting their consistently pro-life records ahead of the election.

The South Carolina primary will be held January 21, ten days before the Florida primary.