The Corner

Tim Pawlenty May Be the Strongest Pro-Life Candidate in 2012

Fresh from the announcement of Tim Pawlenty’s presidential exploratory committee, pundits of all stripes have begun dissecting the former Minnesota governor’s record in an effort to determine whether he can succeed in the upcoming Republican primary election.

Pawlenty has mainstream-conservative positions on fiscal and foreign-policy issues — but it could be his remarkably strong pro-life record that attracts voters in states like Iowa and South Carolina.

When it comes to pro-life issues, most Republicans probably think of someone like Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee as potentially the most pro-life Republican candidate. If they run — a real question for both — they will undoubtedly attract considerable support from pro-life advocates because of their heartfelt pro-life views. Rick Santorum, who may be running for president in 2012 with the partial goal of keeping social issues like abortion in play, is another pro-life stalwart.

But Pawlenty’s laundry list of accomplishments puts him in a nice position to say he’s done as  much as or more than anyone else running to advance the pro-life cause. It could also help him when matched up against possible candidates like Mitt Romney, who changed his position on abortion before the 2008 campaign, and Mitch Daniels, who concerned pro-life voters with his talk of a truce on social issues like abortion.

During his first year as governor in 2003, Pawlenty signed into law the Woman’s Right to Know Act, giving women information about abortion risks and alternatives as well as information on fetal development. The law became a model for other states. Minnesota was also the first to give women information on fetal pain — coming well in advance of the new trend of banning abortions based on that scientific concept, which Nebraska started last year. The former governor followed up that bill by signing the Unborn Child Pain Prevention Act in 2005 to give women even more information on the pain their babies feel during an abortion.

Pawlenty didn’t stop there. #more#In 2005 he signed the Positive Alternatives to Abortion Act to make Minnesota one of just a handful of states that send public funds to pregnancy centers providing tangible support for pregnant women and abortion alternatives. Since then, it has helped more than 18,000 pregnant women and their families.

Again proving his commitment to women and his understanding of the myriad medical and mental-health problems women face following an abortion, Governor Pawlenty issued a proclamation in 2010 designating the month of April as “Abortion Recovery Month” and urging agencies in the state to help women who are suffering problems following their abortions. Recognizing the massive national post-abortion movement, which features millions of women who regret their abortions, Pawlenty again led the way by acknowledging this post-abortion pain in a way most other states have not.

Governor Pawlenty’s pro-life record includes everything from promoting perinatal hospices as alternatives to abortion in cases when a baby is diagnosed with a severe medical condition, to declaring pro-life days recognizing the tragedy of Roe v. Wade, to speaking at rallies and events for key pro-life groups like Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

But two other aspects of the pro-life debate show Pawlenty is a cut above the average pro-life elected official.

In a time when some pro-life advocates abandoned the pro-life movement on bioethics issues, Pawlenty stood fast. He vetoed a cloning bill that would have legalized human cloning and forced taxpayers to pay for the destruction of human life, saying destroying human embryos crossed “core ethical and moral boundaries.” The governor also signed into law a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning, because he rightfully acknowledges that adult stem-cell research is not only more ethical but more effective in helping patients. A President Pawlenty would assuredly overturn Pres. Barack Obama’s executive order forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem-cell research that destroys human lives and has never helped a single patient.

For pro-life voters, however, the biggest issue in the upcoming presidential election is judges. The current Supreme Court has a teetering 5–4 pro-abortion majority and the next few nominations will likely determine the future of the high court on abortion for decades.

In 2008, Governor Pawlenty appointed a pro-life advocate to lead the Minnesota Supreme Court. Eric Magnuson, who was named chief justice, had written an amicus brief for a pro-life group in a case arguing that taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortions with their tax money.

Governor Pawlenty also felt so strongly about appointing Jamie Anderson to the 4th Judicial District Court that he bypassed the state’s Commission on Judicial Selection to ensure the respected pro-life attorney had a seat.

Pawlenty’s strength on judges also comes by way of his wife Mary, who is a former judge herself. Although pro-life voters appreciated the pro-life actions of presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush, their wives did not share their pro-life perspective. Mary Pawlenty, an evangelical who attended Bethel College, is a heartfelt pro-life advocate who combines a passion for the unborn with an acute political and legal mind.

The Pawlenty pro-life track record has produced proven results: The Minnesota health department indicated last year that abortions have dropped 14 percent and hit a 35-year low.

For pro-life voters in early primary and caucus states, those numbers — combined with his record of signing pro-life legislation, his commitment to strict constructionist judges, and his rejection of Obamacare in Minnesota — will make Pawlenty an attractive candidate to consider. If other pro-life stalwarts like Palin or Huckabee opt against their own presidential bid, Pawlenty stands to pick up significant support from social conservatives and he could become the leading pro-life Republican presidential candidate.

Steven Ertelt is the editor and CEO of


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