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Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann says that, as president, she will be "100 percent pro-life from conception until natural death." And she says the same can’t be said of her opponents.
In a Republican presidential primary debate in Sioux City, Iowa, on Dec. 15, 2011, Bachmann attacked front-runner Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, for his past actions on abortion. She said he passed on a chance to defund Planned Parenthood, then lobbed this bombshell:
"And also I think even more troubling, when he was in Washington, D.C., he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support but he would campaign for Republicans who are in support of the barbaric procedure known as partial-birth abortion," Bachmann said.
Did we hear that right? The man who led the Republican takeover of Congress and authored the conservative Contract with America said he’d campaign for late-term abortion proponents? This called for a fact check.
In 1998, when Gingrich was speaker, a feud erupted within the Republican National Committee over a proposal to cut off funding for any Republican candidate who refused to support a ban on partial-birth abortion, a procedure involving the extraction of a late-term fetus.
Republicans in Congress had failed to get a ban enacted -- President Bill Clinton had vetoed two measures. So GOP leaders sought to ensure that any Republican who got elected would support the ban.
But many in the party -- Gingrich among them -- objected to the funding cut, saying the approach would "set an unhealthy precedent -- the party hierarchy trying to dictate to rank and file voters whom they should elect and why," according to the Boston Globe.
Gingrich spoke at a luncheon during the RNC’s winter meeting in California on Jan. 16, 1998. Here are excerpts of his remarks on the subject:
"Let me make very clear I have voted to ban partial births. I have consistently sided with Henry Hyde and Chris Smith on issues that are matters of right to life. I believe deeply and passionately in the right to life, and I think those of us who believe that have an obligation to do all we can.
"I am also the Republican speaker of the House, and I can tell you that Henry Hyde would not be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Orrin Hatch would not be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if the Republican Party decides that we are no longer a broad party that invites people who broadly share our views, but we are going to start going down a road where we start limiting who people get to pick in primaries. After all, it is the voters of America who choose who the nominees are. It is the voters of America who have a right -- some places they are going to pick people who are to my right; some places they are going to pick people who are to my left.
"And in both cases, if they are the Republican nominee, I am going to actively campaign for them, because when they get to Congress, whether they are a moderate Republican from the Northeast, whether they are a very conservative Republican from the South or West -- whatever their background, I am going to turn to them and say, ‘This is the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- of course you are going to vote to make him chairman.’"
He called the funding ban a "tactical mistake" because it pulled focus from Clinton’s vetoes.
"The country doesn't think it makes any sense to have children killed in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth months, particularly killed in this horrible, barbaric procedure. That's where the attention was focused, on the president's veto. And we should go back," Gingrich said.
The funding ban failed on a voice vote in the RNC. A substitute amendment, saying that the party "reaffirms its principled opposition to partial-birth abortions and commits to banning this heinous procedure from America forever," passed instead.
When we contacted the Bachmann campaign, a spokeswoman sent us a press release that included this quote from an Associated Press story dated a week after the RNC meeting.
"Gingrich said he opposes the ‘barbaric’ abortion procedure, and would continue to vote to ban it. But he argued that the resolution was the wrong way to eliminate partial-birth abortions. ‘We don’t want to say to that the Republican National Committee is going to say to the primary voters of Charlotte, the primary voters of Greensboro, the primary voters of Columbia, S.C., if you pick the wrong person, we’re not going to support you,’ Gingrich said. ‘I think there’s a certain arrogance in saying (RNC members) nationally are now going to dictate in the primaries in every part of the country,’ he said."
Bachmann said of Gingrich, "When he was in Washington, D.C., he made an affirmative statement that he would not only support but he would campaign for Republicans who were in support of the barbaric procedure known as partial-birth abortion."
She correctly stated what Gingrich told the RNC in 1998. She even used his exact words to describe partial-birth abortion, calling it a "barbaric procedure." Gingrich said he was being a pragmatist in order to maintain a majority in Congress so that it could successfully ban the procedure. He said he’d campaign for all Republicans, even those to the left of him, because he didn’t think party leaders should be "purging" Republican candidates and dictating to voters whom they should choose.
Bachmann left out that context and thus, gave an incomplete impression of Gingrich’s position. Given all that, we rate her statement Mostly True.
Republican presidential debate sponsored by Fox News, Sioux City, Iowa, Dec. 15, 2011, transcript accessed via CQ.com
Remarks of the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting, Renaissance Esmerelda Resort, Indian Wells, Calif., Jan. 16, 1998, transcript accessed via Nexis
"Newt Gingrich on Partial-Birth Abortion and Taxpayer Funding of Abortions," press release from Bachmann campaign, Dec. 16, 2011
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jan. 17, 1998, "GOP decides against abortion ultimatum," accessed via Nexis
Boston Globe, Jan. 17, 1998, "GOP rejects antiabortion litmus test," accessed via Nexis
San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 17, 1998, "GOP Rejects Litmus Test On Abortion; Party won't restrict candidates' funding," accessed via Nexis
Factcheck.org, Dec. 16, 2011, "Bachmann vs. Gingrich on Abortion"
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