On Monday evening, officials at the National Right to Life Committee agreed to take some written questions from National Review Online regarding their pending endorsement of Fred Thompson for president. I just received the answers from Darla St. Martin, NRLC’s co-executive director. They are posted below in their entirety.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why Fred?
Darla St. Martin: National Right to Life endorsed Fred Thompson based on three factors: his commitments on life issues, his record on life issues and his ability to win.
Lopez: Did you hear what he had to say on Meet the Press the other day? He sounds like someone who buys into the conventional wisdom criticisms of pro-lifers: We want to “criminalize” women – throw them in jail. As Bob Novak put it, Senator Thompson “revealed astounding lack of sensitivity about the abortion issue.” Are you schooling him or are you confessing we really do want to throw desperate women behind bars?
St. Martin: Neither National Right to Life nor Fred Thompson supports criminal penalties for women who have had abortions.
Lopez: Are you upset that Jim Bopp, your general counsel, is with Romney?
St. Martin: Our General Counsel James Bopp has a number of clients who may endorse various candidates for President. His endorsement of Romney is a personal endorsement and does not represent that of National Right to Life or his other clients.
Lopez: Why is it O.K. with you’all that Thompson co-sponsored McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform legislation that you’ve been fighting for years?
St. Martin: Our endorsement was based on the life issues themselves: the killing of unborn children by abortion or stem cell research and euthanasia. Further, several of the Republican candidates disagreed with us on various aspects of “campaign reform”. However, Fred Thompson has revised his opinion on the principal problem National Right to Life had with “campaign reform.”
Lopez: If you forgave Thompson on some things, why not forgive McCain, who has the longest pro-life record (stem cells excepted) of any of the viable candidates?
St. Martin: We gave every candidate who had a significant number of pro-life votes on their record or took pro-life positions on life issues serious consideration for endorsement. It is simply not true that anyone was ruled out of consideration because of his position on “campaign reform”. Meetings took place with all the leading Republican candidates except Giuliani.
Lopez: Does Fred Thompson have a Terri Schiavo problem? He’s said he opposed congressional invention to save her life.
St. Martin: Fred Thompson has stated that he believes decisions about a patient’s life saving care should be made by the patient or their family. But he has also made clear that when the patient wants treatment, or in cases where the patient’s wishes are unknown, their families want life-sustaining treatment, that it should be provided. In cases where the family is divided, he believes the benefit of the doubt should be given to life. It should be noted that Terri would be alive today if the division in the family had been decided in favor of life as Fred Thompson favors.
Lopez: Is the Thompson endorsement an indication that the National Right to Life Committee is abandoning its support for a Human Life Amendment?
St. Martin: National Right to Life continues to support a Human Life Amendment (HLA) as a goal. However, National Right to Life also knows that it will take a change of 25-30 Senate seats to even pass a Human Life Amendment out of the U.S Senate where a two thirds vote is required –not to mention, the required two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and three fourths of the states to ratify. It is very, very unlikely to happen in the next presidential term, and the President does not have a vote in the amendment process anyway. The only way Roe v. Wade will be reversed in the foreseeable future will be through the Supreme Court and Fred Thompson has stated that he will appoint judges who will interpret the Constitution according to its actual text (the kind of judges who will know that abortion is not in the U.S. Constitution).
Lopez: Does Fred Thompson have to do some things differently now that he has your endorsement? Did it come with conditions and/or assurances?
St. Martin: We discussed their positions on life issues extensively with each of the major pro-life candidates, including Fred Thompson. We did not interview or consider Giuliani for endorsement.
Lopez: How important is it that the Republican candidate for president be opposed to legal abortion? Was there a political calculation here? Does the National Right to Life Committee think Fred Thompson is the most viable pro-life candidate?
St. Martin: We think that it is very important that the Republican candidate for President be pro-life. Yes, viability is an important criteria for our endorsement, but all three factors, commitments, record and viability are all important and were considered.
Lopez: Is your endorsement of Thompson an explicit rejection of Romney? Do you not believe he is pro-life?
St. Martin: The endorsement of Thompson was done based on the three factors mentioned above: record on life issues, commitments on life issues and ability to win.
LOPEZ: Does this mean that you believe that: a) Romney’s record as governor is weak on life? b) Romney is not fully committed to defending life? c) Romney cannot win the Republican nomination? d) Romney cannot win the general election?
ST. MARTIN: Our emphasis today is on our endorsement of Fred Thompson. That endorsement reflects his strong pro-life commitment and record. Fred Thompson has been pro-life his entire political career.
Lopez: Why not go safe and endorse Huckabee? Or heck, Ron Paul, a pro-life doctor?
St. Martin: If you look at our website www.nrlc.org, you can examine for yourself the pro-life records of several of the candidates who have served in Congress. An objective comparison of the statements of all candidates is also available on our web site. Huckabee has an excellent pro-life record, but as you can see on our web site, Thompson also has an excellent pro-life record. However, Thompson has been the candidate consistently running second to pro-abortion Giuliani in the national polls. You may also wish to check out Ron Paul’s voting record on our web site.