Updated Oct. 27 and Oct. 29.
WASHINGTON (EWTN News/CNA)—Abortion was a key issue for Republican presidential candidates at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual dinner on Oct. 22.
The dinner, which took place at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, featured speeches by six major GOP candidates.
“It is a liberal canard to say, ‘I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision,’” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry. “That is not pro-life. That is pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too.”
“Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience. It is a core conviction,” he added.
“I’ve raised 28 children. I am the old woman in the shoe,” said Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, referencing the several years that she and her husband spent as foster parents.
“I want you to know quite firmly: I stand for life, from conception to natural death.”
The emphasis on the candidates’ pro-life positions came days after Republican candidate Herman Cain’s stance on abortion was called into question when he made headlines with seemingly contradictory comments about his pro-life views.
In an Oct. 16 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Cain said, “I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances.”
He went on to explain that he opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, but when asked about instances when the mother’s life is at risk, he responded, “That family is going to have to make that decision.”
In an Oct. 20 interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Cain was asked what he would do if a family member was raped and whether he would want that family member to raise the child. Cain said that it was “not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision.”
Cain later responded to the interview with a statement, indicating that his answer “was focused on the role of the president.”
“The president has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone,” he said. “That was the point I was trying to convey.
“I am 100% pro-life, period.”
At the Iowa dinner, Cain emphasized his commitment to the pro-life cause. He said he believes abortion should be “illegal” in the United States and vowed that he would not sign legislation that provided government funding of abortion.
“I would not sign any legislation that in any way allowed the government to be involved in it,” he said. “I believe that abortion should be clearly stated as illegal across this country, and I would work to defund Planned Parenthood.”
Cain elaborated on his position in an Oct. 22 interview with David Brody of CBN News. He said that, as president, he would sign a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v. Wade.
Cain said that his previous comments had been taken “out of context” and that experience has shown him that he needs to “beware of being pigeonholed.”
New section added on Oct. 27:
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says that reason does not conflict with his Catholic faith, but rather works with it to guide his political decisions.
“When the reason is right and the faith is true, they end up at the same place,” Santorum told EWTN News in an early October interview.
“Faith and reason: the conclusion must satisfy both.”
Santorum, who served as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007, has expressed his support for the Church’s teaching on key social issues.
His Catholic beliefs have drawn attention in the media since he announced his bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
“People say that they make their decisions based on their conscience. What forms their conscience?” asked Santorum.
“Clearly, for me, as the Church teaches, your conscience is formed by faith and reason,” he said. “And, so, I apply both.”
Santorum used the example of abortion to illustrate how faith and reason play complementary roles in guiding his political positions.
“The reasoned argument is simply this,” he explained. “At the moment of conception, scientifically, biologically, that is a unique human being, with its own DNA. It is unique in the world, and it’s alive, so it’s a human life. And I don’t believe that the Constitution, as written, discriminates between some human life being people and other human life not being people.”
He sees this principle of human dignity in the 14th Amendment, a provision “that was supposed to be cast as broadly as possible, to include people who were not seen as fully human.”
Santorum explained that reason brought him to the conclusion that abortion is wrong, a conclusion that faith also showed him.
“The faith teaches very clearly that life is life at the moment of conception,” he said.
Santorum acknowledged that his Catholicism “gets mentioned a lot” by the media. But the attention does not bother him.
“Bring it on,” he said. “I’m happy to talk about it. It is a part of my life.”
“I’m proud of being a Catholic,” Santorum added. “I’m proud of the teachings of the Church.”
Santorum also said that those who do not share his beliefs should not feel threatened by him.
“James Madison called the First Amendment the ‘perfect remedy,’” he said. “All views are allowed in the public square: people with faith, people without faith.”
“People can make their claims, and we can have a substantive and vibrant debate,” he added.
“No one should feel threatened, any more than I would feel threatened by someone bringing their ideas in.”
Instead, the presidential hopeful welcomes a reasoned dialogue between different viewpoints: “I may feel challenged by them because they require me to rigorously defend what I believe in and to argue for what I believe in, but that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”
New section on Oct. 29
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Catholics should pray about the decision of whom to support for public office and then vote according to their consciences.
Gingrich, a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2009, is also running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Gingrich told EWTN News on Oct. 24 that he believes the single biggest threat to America today is “the attack against the Judeo-Christian tradition and the effort to drive God out of public life and eliminate the understanding that our rights come from our Creator.”
The former speaker explained that he was motivated to run for president by the current political situation in America.
“The United States faces the most serious election since 1860,” he said.
“Our challenges are so great and the consequence of choosing American exceptionalism or class warfare and bureaucratic socialism is so large that as a citizen I felt compelled to run.”
Gingrich explained that his faith would influence his political decisions as president.
“Any leader should seek God’s guidance,” he said. “The teachings of the Church inform my thinking about solving earthly problems.”
Gingrich said that he would “listen” to the concerns of those who feel threatened by his views and values.
“In many cases, better communications and clarification will eliminate their worries,” he said.
“In some cases, they are right to feel threatened because we have incompatible values and fundamentally different visions of the future.”
As speaker of the House, Gingrich had a strongly pro-life voting record.
In his race for GOP presidential candidate, he has signed the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge.
The pledge asks candidates to commit to nominating federal judges who are dedicated to “applying the original meaning of the Constitution;” selecting “only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and executive branch positions;” supporting legislation to “permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion;” and working toward a law “to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.”
Gingrich has also expressed support for efforts to defend marriage.
“I helped author the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration should be protecting in court,” he said in a Republican primary debate in Manchester, N.H., on June 13, 2011.
“I think if that fails, you have no choice except a constitutional amendment.”
Gingrich told EWTN News that Catholic voters who are trying to pick a candidate to support in the upcoming election should pray about their decision and “take seriously the responsibility of citizenship.”
“Pray for America and for our leaders,” he said. “Then vote as your conscience instructs you.”
“If possible, become an activist, helping America regain its sense of purpose and direction.”