By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 2, 2009 ( – When the Republican National Committee (RNC) elected Michael Steele as the next Chairman late Friday, many applauded the choice of Steele, a pro-life, pro-family Catholic, as sure to steer the party back to its conservative roots.

Steele, who studied for the priesthood as an Augustinian before leaving to earn a law degree, served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 2003-07.

In an interview with CBN’s David Brody last month, Steele responded strongly to conservatives who called into question his commitment to pro-life legislation.

“I was a monk for goodness sakes, ok? I spent three years in a monastery,” said Steele.  “When I came out and got politically involved I was an advocate for pro-life issues. I was endorsed by National Right to Life. I don’t think they would endorse me if I were squeamish or squishy as some have called me on this issue.”

Steele also insisted that his much-talked-about tenure on the board of the pro-choice Republican Leadership Council (RLC) did not represent a compromise of his values.

Steele said when his friend and pro-choice Republican Christie Todd Whitman invited him to join the RLC, “I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.

“My being on this board had nothing to do with lessening my conservative values or somehow appeasing them or compromising them,” said Steele.  “It had everything to do with reasserting them.”

Based on some of his previous statements, some pro-lifers had feared Steele showed too great a willingness to compromise with his pro-abortion colleagues. 

During a debate on Meet the Press in October 2006 Tim Russert asked Steele: “Mr. Steele, if you’re United States Senator, would you vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion?

Steele responded, “I don’t — vote for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion? I think we’d have to have that get to the Supreme Court, wouldn’t we? I haven’t seen that bill proposed. I don’t think…”

RUSSERT: So you wouldn’t do that?


RUSSERT: Do you want [the U.S. Court] to sustain [Roe v. Wade] or overturn it?

STEELE: Well, I think … Roe vs. Wade, Roe vs. Wade is a, is a matter that should’ve been left to the states to decide, ultimately. …

RUSSERT: Is, is your desire to keep it in place?

STEELE: My desire is that we follow what stare decisis is at this point, yes.

Steele explained his statements on Meet the Press during the CNS interview, where he explained that Roe v. Wade would remain the precedent until another case challenged it. 

“Roe versus Wade was wrongly decided,” said Steele.  “It should be overturned in my personal view.  We [Republicans] value life born and unborn and we will fight for that, and I will fight for that as an individual, and I will fight for that as chairman of the party.”

Steele has voiced strong opposition against embryonic stem cell research, and is in favor of a constitutional amendment to protect true marriage. 

Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and one of Steele’s final competitors for RNC chair, withdrew from the race after the fourth round of voting to throw his “fullest support” behind Steele. 

A fellow pro-life African-American, Blackwell told the RNC, “I believe that the next chairman must inspire hope, must be smart enough to work with the policy leaders to create opportunity for America and must have the leadership, ability and vision to first pull us together and then to pull American together.

“Because we as Republicans understand that great nations don’t come from great governments, but from good people doing great things together, and that is why I put my fullest support behind Michael Steele.”