GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA, January 19, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - Although attendees did not choose a winner at Wednesday night’s pro-life forum in Greenville, South Carolina, there was one clear loser: Mitt Romney.
Romney chose to skip the event, which was hosted by Personhood USA. That group’s co-founder, Keith Mason, said organizers “didn’t know until [Tuesday] night” that Romney would definitely not be in attendance. Ultimately, a state campaign worker told the organization “there was a conflict and he was unable to make it.”
However, all four remaining candidates chose to make time for the event, including Congressman Ron Paul, who flew to Washington, D.C., to vote on an important bill. He appeared by satellite.
Governor Rick Perry, who pulled out of the presidential race the next morning, called Romney’s change-of-heart on abortion a “choice for convenience. This was a decision that Governor Romney made for a political convenience, not an issue of his heart.”
“I’ve been around this business long enough to understand the horse-trading that goes on but there’s some principles that you don’t trade on,” Perry said. “Governor Romney has been on both sides of the issue of life.”
Senator Rick Santorum agreed that abortion is “an indispensable moral issue” and pledged to do more than pay lip service to it during election years.
The four GOP hopefuls were questioned by a panel that included Lila Rose of Live Action, Georgia Right to Life President Danny Becker, and Gualberto Garcia Jones. The event was not a debate but rather a series of four sit-down interviews, conducted alone in alphabetical order.
When asked, all the candidates responded life began at the moment of conception. Since some have attempted to equate conception with implantation, candidates were asked for their definition of “conception,” as well. Rick Perry’s response provoked laughter. “When the sperm and the egg come together. You got a different idea?”
“I’m not a doctor…but I did grow up on a farm,” he said.
Newt Gingrich added that “all of the genetic patterns needed are in existence at that moment, and therefore the rights should attach at that moment.”
Rick Santorum said, “I don’t believe life begins at conception. I know life begins at conception.”
Ron Paul relied upon his history as an obstetrician to for proof that his pro-life convictions were steeped in science as much as his Christian faith. He said one of the greatest breakthroughs in pro-life history was the invention of the ultrasound. “I can talk to [opponents] and say look,’ I’ll show you on the ultrasound,’” he said. “I’ll show you what they’re doing. This is an act of violence. And this has helped me convert many, many people.”
Paul revealed the machine convinced a colleague who committed illegal abortions to change his ways.
All the candidates also agreed Planned Parenthood should be defunded.
Beyond those points, they differed about which policies their presidencies would emphasize.
Gingrich reminded attendees that the next president could make several Supreme Court appointments, tilting the balance of the court. Raising the issue of judicial activism, he said, “If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the president can in fact ignore the courts.”
In response to a panelist’s question, Gingrich warned debates over human genetic experimentation will be “at the heart of the next 40 years.”
Santorum also saw human experimentation as the next major challenge to human dignity. “Every child has dignity and value,” he said.
Santorum called his special needs child, Bella, who was born with Trisomy 18, “the greatest gift I’ve ever been given in my life.”
Ending abortion is one of the few issues Ron Paul supports strongly enough to amend the Constitution. He reiterated his long-running advocacy of a Constitutional amendment affirming the Right to Life.
Until it passes, he would like the federal government out of the issue, allowing states to enact bans on a state-by-state basis. “It repeals Roe v. Wade immediately,” Paul said. “It would’ve saved a lot of lives a lot sooner.”
Santorum had an unwelcome surprise waiting for him after the forum: flyers describing him as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” had been plastered on attendees’ cars. The letter, which purports to be written by a concerned citizen named Elizabeth Leichert, criticizes his wife Karen’s former relationship with abortionist Tom Allen, and Santorum’s vote for a larger appropriations bill that also provided funding for Planned Parenthood.
Santorum addressed the funding for Title X “family planning” services on the campaign trail and again during the forum. He admitted he “fought vehemently against” funding for Title X but could not defeat it. He instead touted his support for abstinence education, the National Fatherhood Initiative, Healthy Marriage Initiative, and other pro-family government programs.
The remaining four presidential hopefuls will face off in one last debate this evening.
The whole debate can be seen in two hour-long videos here.
(Questions for the candidates do not begin until 26 minutes into the first video.)