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Romney’s Refusal to Sign Anti-Abortion Pledge Highlights GOP Tensions

June 20, 2011, 5:28 pm | Posted by Tara Culp-Ressler

Romney-01.jpgEarlier this month, we reported on emerging signs of tension between the GOP and the Religious Right, including the suggestion that using life issues as a litmus test for social conservatives may divide Republicans and distract the party from their White House goals. This is confirmed by the current controversy around Mitt Romney’s decision not to sign an anti-abortion pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.

The pledge requires signers to commit to anti-abortion measures such as defunding Planned Parenthood. Although the majority of the Republican candidates signed on, Romney declined, echoing the same point Eliot Spitzer made to Tony Perkins about the dangerous redefinition of federal funding. In an essay published in the National Review Online, Romney clarifies his position:

“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.”

Romney’s decision is already affecting his standing with the Religious Right. In a statement released yesterday, the president of the SBA List expresses doubts about Romney’s commitment to active anti-abortion leadership: “Our next president must recognize the urgency of addressing over a million abortions per year…Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.” And Deal Hudson, the president of Catholic Advocate, wonders whether anti-abortion advocates will see this as a simple disagreement or as a deal breaker. As he points out, some conservatives may look at Romney’s failure to sign the SBA pledge as an “example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.”

Although Romney is currently leading in the polls, can he maintain his popularity if the Religious Right continues to criticize him for being too weak on abortion issues? And if he wins the nomination, will these organizations continue to oppose him or suddenly change their mind for “party unity”?

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