Former Utah governor and current presidential candidate Jon Huntsman has what many deem a healthy pro-life record, but his recent, yet mild, support for embryonic stem cell research and his refusal to sign a prominent organization's pro-life pledge may have a negative impact on his image among social conservatives.
Huntsman has been open and honest regarding his views on the GOP's role in the pro-life movement. Earlier this month, Huntsman said the following to an audience at this year's Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C.:
"I do not believe that the Republican Party should only focus on our economic life, to the neglect of our human life. That is a trade we should not make.
If Republicans ignored life, the deficit we will face is one that is much more destructive. It will be a deficit of the heart and soul."
Watch his remarks below:
Following this conference, the presidential candidate has created some angst, though, for pro-life advocates. According to LifeSiteNews.com, Huntsman spokesperson Tim Miller recently prepared a statement regarding embryonic stem cell research. While Miller writes that the former governor opposes funding for new lines that would harm embryos, he is not entirely closed off to embryonic research:
[Huntsman] "is a passionate supporter of stem cell research," [and that he supports federal funding] "for lines that have a demonstrated history of success—adult stem cells, non-embryonic stem-cells and certain types of embryonic stem cell research."
While this point may be concerning to some in the pro-life movement, it is Huntsman's refusal to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's "Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge" that seems more controversial. The pledge, intended to reinforce candidates' promises not to support abortion measures, will likely become a litmus test for some Americans who plan to only vote for those candidates who have signed it.
SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser was less than pleased with Huntsman's refusal. In a statement, she said:
“It is extremely disappointing to see another candidate who is running on a pro-life message refuse to sign the promise to voters that he will act as a leader for our movement if elected to the White House."
The release goes on to say the following:
Huntsman came out publically not long after announcing his candidacy to say that he does "not sign pledges," an explanation that is not sitting well with pro-life Americans.
"In order to become President of the United States one has to take the pledge of all pledges: the Presidential oath of office," Dannenfelser explained. "So really, Huntsman does take pledges, just not the kind which address specific issues he will face if elected President."
Huntsman, of course, is not the only Republican candidate not to sign the pledge. Earlier this month, The Blaze reported on Mitt Romney's refusal to do so. Herman Cain and Governor Gary Johnson also decided not to add their names to the list. That said, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rick Santorum all signed on.
With fiscal matters at the forefront of the 2012 race already, it is difficult to assess just how important abortion will be when people head to the polls next year. But, for many, the issue remains at the forefront of their electoral decision-making. While Huntsman -- like his peers who have declined being signatories -- has certainly disappointed many, perhaps his record on the matter will speak for itself.