Steele On Abortion: Then (Two Weeks Ago) And Now

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March 12, 2009 6:59 a.m.

Michael Steele has sharply walked back a statement in his GQ interview that seemed to indicate he agreed abortion is an individual choice. “I am pro-life, always have been, always will be,” Steele said in a new statement.

As we’ve also found out, the statements about abortion to GQ were made over two weeks ago. Family Research Council head Tony Perkins has responded to the newly-published interview, and he’s not happy: “I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman’s pledge.”

Note that Perkins said he spoke to Steele about the issue earlier this week, and Steele assured him that he would promote the party’s platform. So Steele told Perkins that he would publicly uphold the party’s official policies, about two weeks after he’d done a yet-to-be-published interview to the contrary.

So let’s compare Steele’s stated positions from now versus then.Steele explains today that what he meant by “choice” was the need to persuade more people to choose life — not that abortion should itself remain a legal option: “I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a ‘choice’ before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances.”

Let’s take another look at what Steele said:

Explain that.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

You do?
Yeah. Absolutely.

Steele also says in his new statement he supports amending the Constitution to outlaw abortion: “But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.”

Again, this seems very much contrary to the GQ article, where he advocated overturning Roe v. Wade so that the issue could be devolved to the states:

Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?
Absolutely!

Steele seems to be saying here that the states should make the decision on abortion — that is, a pro-federalism position appeared to be his optimal scenario. This is somewhat different from the Republican platform’s official call for not just rolling back Roe, but also for working to pass a Human Life Amendment, which would set a single national standard in the Constitution to outlaw abortion.

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