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WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2011 ( – Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich created an unwanted controversy over the weekend when he told a reporter he believed life began at implantation, but later stated it began at conception.

In an interview on Friday, the former Speaker of the House told ABC News’ Jake Tapper life begins at the moment of “successful implantation” and criticized “ideological positions that sound good [but] don’t then follow through the logic.”

TAPPER: When do you think human life begins?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’ I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.

TAPPER: So implantation is the moment for you.

GINGRICH: Implantation and successful implantation. In addition I would say that I’ve never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.

Tapper had questioned the former House Speaker after Rick Santorum blasted his “inconsistent” record on abortion. 

Following the interview, GOP rival Michele Bachmann released a statement saying Gingrich had “failed to uphold a consistently pro-life stance throughout his career in public life.” She called his position “a rejection of the most sacred principle that each and every life has value.”

Gingrich backpedaled on Saturday, naming conception as the beginning of life. “As I have stated many times throughout the course of my public life, I believe that human life begins at conception,” he wrote. “My convictions on human life are longstanding, deeply felt, and irrevocable matters of conscience.”

He added he will continue to pursue legislation that “not only limits, but also reduces, the total number of abortions, with a view to the eventual legal protection of all unborn human life.” Gingrich promised to reinstate the Mexico City doctrine, “repeal Obamacare,” transfer federal Planned Parenthood funding to pro-adoption groups, and “to enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn.” 

For most of his career, Gingrich, who joined the Catholic Church in 2009, has stopped short of calling for ending all abortion by law. In 1990, Gingrich stated, “The Republican Party will be the party that on balance prefers the fewest abortions possible.” In 1995, Gingrich publicly supported “funding in the case of rape or incest, or [to save the] life of the mother.” 

Three years later, Gingrich told the Republican National Committee that, while he personally found partial birth abortion “barbaric” and supported its ban, he believed the Republican Party should fund candidates who support keeping late-term abortions legal. Gingrich said that regardless of candidates’ positions on the issue, “if they’re the Republican nominee, I am going to actively campaign for them.”

Gingrich also re-emphasized on Saturday his stance against embryonic stem cell research, stating flatly, “I oppose federal funding of any research that destroys a human embryo.” Gingrich is a past supporter of such research, and expressed his “hope” in 2001 that President George W. Bush would provide federal funds for research on discarded embryos in fertility clinics. He also contrasted “a fetus that is implanted” with “cells in a fertility clinic,” which he classified as “not prehuman.”

Gingrich leads the latest Des Moines Register poll at 25 percent, ahead of fellow candidates Ron Paul and Mitt Romney in the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP presidential caucuses.  A Gallup poll released Monday found that 62 percent of Republican voters find Gingrich an “acceptable” nominee for president, while congressional Republicans have been slow to rally behind the former Speaker.


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