Michael Steele, a self-described Catholic who is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, has distanced himself from comments he made stating that he believes women “absolutely” have the right to choose abortion.
“I am pro-life, always have been, always will be,” he said in a statement through a Republican National Committee spokesman.
GQ magazine interviewer Lisa DePaulo had asked Steele how much of his pro-life stance is informed “not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?”
“Oh, a lot,” he replied, saying he sees the “power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice!”
Criticizing “these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth,” he argued that “the choice issue cuts two ways.”
“You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.”
DePaulo asked if he was saying he thinks women “have the right to choose abortion.”
“Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice,” Steele replied.
“You do?” DePaulo questioned.
“Yeah. Absolutely,” he told GQ.
Saying that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided “as a legal matter,” he said that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the states should decide about the legality of abortion.
“That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.”
DePaulo asked Steele if pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party, to which he answered “Absolutely!”
Calling the Republican Party “a big tent party,” he said “we recognize that there are views that may be divergent on some issues, but our goal is to correspond, or try to respond, to some core values and principles that we can agree on.”
He argued that the Republican Party is more welcoming to pro-choice people than Democrats are to pro-lifers because the Democrats “wouldn’t allow a pro-lifer to speak at their convention.”
Many believe Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey was blocked from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention (DNC) because of his pro-life views. His son, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., was allowed to speak at the 2008 DNC, where he briefly alluded to his disagreement with Barack Obama on abortion.
Steele contrasted this long Democratic hostility towards pro-lifers with the Republican National Convention’s acceptance of pro-abortion rights speakers.
“We’ve had many a pro-choicer speak at ours—long before Rudy Giuliani. So yeah, that’s something I’ve been trying to get our party to appreciate. It’s not just in our words but in our actions, we’ve been a party that’s much more embracing.”
In a Thursday statement, Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins commented on Steele’s GQ interview, saying earlier in the week he had expressed his “concerns” to Steele about “previous statements that were very similar in nature.”
“He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues,” Perkins stated. “It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge.”
He said he would not publicly comment further on the interview or its impact on social conservatives’ support for the Republican National Committee until Steele responds to his personal message.
Steele commented on his GQ interview in a statement delivered through a spokesman.
“I am pro-life, always have been, always will be,” he insisted, saying his interview comments tried to present why he is pro-life while recognizing that his mother had a “choice” before deciding to put him up for adoption.
“I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro-life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did,” he said.
Steele reiterated his support for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, acknowledging that some Republicans disagree with him.
“But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.”