5:37pm

Thu July 28, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Abortion-Rights Group Faults Republican Presidential Field

OK, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. But the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America says that none of the declared Republican candidates for president — nor any of those thought to be waiting in the wings — would pass muster with voters who support a woman's right to choose.

"They're all equally unacceptable," said Donna Crane, the group's policy director, at a briefing to release a thick briefing book detailing the reproductive-health records of a dozen Republicans who are or could be running to challenge President Obama in 2012. "The outcome of the 2012 Presidential election could very well determine whether abortion remains legal and accessible for the next generation of American women," she said.

An updated report accompanying the background briefing book details all the powers of a president when it comes to reproductive health care, including the power to appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges, the power to issue executive orders, and the power to appoint executive branch officials who oversee health and judicial agencies.

And while all the declared candidates, plus Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, say they are anti-abortion, said NARAL Deputy General Counsel Lissy Moskowitz, "most of the major candidates have (also) been on record saying they're in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood."

In fact, this cycle's crop of GOP candidates is similar to the 2008 field in that all except former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani (whose record was unclear, according NARAL says) are avowedly anti-abortion.

There is a big difference from 2008, however, when it comes to birth control.

For the first time, many, if not most of the candidates have come out not just for the defunding of Planned Parenthood (which is at least arguably about abortion), but some have also voted against — and spoken out against — any kind of federal funding for contraception.

NARAL officials didn't rank the candidates in order of disapproval. The point of the exercise, said Ted Miller, the group's communications director, is to educate the public about the particulars of the candidates' views.

Back in 2008, he said, the group's report on the history of GOP Candidate John McCain's record on reproductive health was critical, "because many people assumed that he was a moderate maverick. And they interpreted that phrase to mean pro-choice." But, in fact, he has opposed abortion rights.

As you might expect, those on the other side of the abortion debate find any of the prospective GOP challengers preferable to the incumbent. "No one is as pro-abortion as Barack Obama," says Ciara Matthews, communications director for the conservative Susan B. Anthony List.

That group has asked candidates to sign a pledge vowing to nominate only anti-abortion candidates to judgeships and top executive branch positions, as well as to defund Planned Parenthood "and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions."

So far, six candidates, including Reps. Michele Bachmann and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have signed the group's pledge. Three candidates have formally declined: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former pizza executive Herman Cain, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. All three still call themselves anti-abortion.

While Matthews said the group isn't picking and choosing favorites among the field, "we'd certainly take a non-pledge signer over Barack Obama."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.