WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Former Massachusetts governor and leading GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has refused to sign a pro-life pledge by the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, inviting a rash of criticism from more overtly pro-life candidates.

The pledge asked candidates to promise to nominate conservative federal judges and appoint only pro-life persons to “relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch” positions. SBA List also called upon the candidates to promise to advance government-wide Hyde amendment legislation and a federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and to “defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rick Santorum all signed the pledge. Romney was one of three GOP candidates who refused to sign the pledge, along with Herman Cain and Gov. Gary Johnson, the latter of which supports unrestricted abortion “until the point of viability.”

Cain, however, said in a statement that he “adamantly support[ed]” the entire pledge except for the notion of “advancing” the Pain-Capable Act, an action he insisted must be performed by Congress.

Romney’s opposition to the pledge ran deeper: the candidate said in a National Review op-ed Saturday that the SBA List’s document “is overly broad and would have unintended consequences.”

While promising to support several pro-life maneuvers from the executive office, such as appointing conservative judges and advancing the Pain-Capable Act, Romney shied away from the strict language regarding funding for abortion-affiliated organizations.

“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 stated. The former governor also said the pledge to appoint pro-life Cabinet members “unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array” of government positions.

Romney had begun the statement by saying that he is “pro-life and believe[s] that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother,” a view shared by candidate Pawlenty.

The SBA List said Romney’s reasoning “raises more questions than answers,” while other pro-life candidates immediately criticized the former governor’s response, recalling that he espoused broader support for legalized abortion as recently as 2002.

While Romney did support the Congressional effort to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this year, David Daleiden of Live Action noted that the candidate was among the last of several GOP presidential hopefuls to throw in his lot, sending a terse email through a spokesman to National Review instead of responding to SBA List’s candidate inquiry.

Bachmann’s spokeswoman Alice Stewart called the refusal to sign the pledge “distressing.” “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,” said Stewart, who encouraged Romney to “reconsider his decision.”

Sen. Rick Santorum on Saturday took to National Review to challenge Romney’s statements regarding health care facilities as well as Cabinet member selection. Santorum noted that the pledge only calls for pro-life members for “relevant” positions, not “a broad array of key positions” as Romney stated.

“I would expect a pro-life candidate to agree to such a simple proposition, just as I would expect a pro-business candidate not to appoint a union boss to head the Department of Labor or someone from the Environmental Defense Fund to head the EPA,” he wrote.