By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 22, 2009 ( – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has again cast doubt on his professed loyalty to the pro-life movement by saying he “absolutely” believes there is room for a pro-abortion candidate in the GOP.

Steele gave the remarks during a brief interview with the Columbus Dispatch in a local restaurant Thursday after leading a Republican rally against President Obama's health care legislation.

Steele told the newspaper that a Republican candidate's view on legal protection for unborn children should reflect the views of their local constituencies.  The GOP chair was then asked if there is room in the party for a pro-abortion candidate such as Steve Stivers of Ohio's 15th district, who is favored to win the Republican nomination next year.

“There absolutely is, there absolutely is,” said Steele.

“The key thing right now – and I think this is true for Republicans across the country – is to have leadership that reflects the communities I live in, where we're from,” he continued.  “As we get ready for the battles that lie ahead from this district to all the districts surrounding the state, that you're going to find those candidates emerge and rise up who reflect those values in those communities, and that's a very important step for the party to take, I think, and I'm looking forward to help lead that charge in the future.”

In response, Ohio Right to Life executive director Michael Gonadakis told the Dispatch: “I'm scratching my head, because I believe Republican candidates should reflect the views of the Republican platform.”

According to his organization's survey, Gondakis noted that a majority of Ohioans are pro-life, even in the less conservative 15th district.

Though Steele has insisted that he is deeply pro-life, his comments on abortion appear largely guided by his stated priority of opening the party to a broader voter base – a tactic that has landed him on shaky ground with pro-life leadership. 

In a March GQ interview, Steele called abortion an “individual choice” that should be decided by the states.

The remarks drew fire from organizations such as the Family Research Council and Americans United for Life, and prompting Indiana's Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger to protest Steele's presence at a Right to Life banquet in March. 

While campaigning for the GOP chairmanship in January, Steele was also forced to retract statements he gave in a 2006 Meet the Press interview, in which he appeared to favor upholding Roe v. Wade.