The Corner

Charlie Crist: I’m Pro-Life Except When It Comes to Abortion

Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida and failed independent Senate candidate turned Democrat, has hinted that he will announce on November 4 his plans to challenge Republican Rick Scott for governor in 2014. “I somewhat know what I’m going to do, but until you say it publicly it’s not done,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times. In the meantime, he released a pre-campaign campaign web video assuring the people of Florida that he is on their side:

When you allowed me to serve as your governor, I worked to be the people’s governor. Every day you — the people — were in charge. I’m an optimist, but let’s face it: The past few years have been tough.  Government on the fringes, donors and politics above you, the people. You’ve seen the attacks — against full-time working people and their health care, against women and their doctors, against teachers, public schools and college affordability. And even against the simple act of casting your vote. It’s not working. Only you the people can end this nonsense and get us back to common sense. That’s the way forward. Tell me how I can help. Share your comments with me here. I’ll read every last one. I work for you, the people. Always have and always will.

Crist asked attendees at the Democratic party conference on Friday to judge him by his deeds and ignore the people who will say, “Charlie said this and then he said that.” In response to a question from someone who recalled his days as a pro-life Republican, Crist said, “I’m pro-life, but when it comes to a woman’s rights, I’m hands-off.”

Crist’s definition of “pro-life” and its application to his own position have taken some interesting turns throughout his political career. In his unsuccessful 1998 campaign for the U.S. Senate, he wrote in a questionnaire for the St. Petersburg Times: “I am pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I believe that a woman has the right to choose, but would prefer only after careful consideration and consultation with her family, her physician and her clergy; not her government.” 

During the Republican primary of the 2006 gubernatorial race, Crist chose the opposite label. “I’m pro-life. I don’t know how else to say it,” he told reporters. His stance in a general-election debate against his Democratic opponent was more nuanced: “I’m pro-life on this issue, but I also understand that it’s very important to respect the views of others, and I do,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s important to change the law. What I do believe is important is that we change hearts and not the law. . . .  I’m pro-life and I’m proud of it, but I don’t think that I should impose my will on other people as a result of it.”

In January 2010, as Marco Rubio was gaining on him in the Republican Senate primary, Crist seemed to think that laws should be changed as well as hearts. He issued a statement promising to fight “for pro-life legislative efforts” in the Senate. Five months later, he scrubbed his campaign website of all references to his support for pro-life causes and “the sanctity of life” and vetoed a bill that would have required a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound and be given the opportunity to see it.

What Crist’s position will be in his inaugural Democratic primary is anybody’s guess.

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