Gingrich Backpedals; Says: 'Life Begins At Conception;' Supports 14th Amendment Protection from Conception

December 4, 2011 - 7:10 PM
Newt Gingrich

House Speaker Newt Gingrich at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, Iowa on Dec. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(CNSNews.com) - One day after he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that he believes life begins not at conception but at "implantation and successful implantation" because if you take the other view "you're going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich posted a statement on his campaign website saying he does believe "human life begins at conception" and reiterated his support for federal legislation that would define the unborn child from the moment of conception as having the rights of a person under the 14th Amendment.

On Friday, Gingrich's campaign also posted a questionnaire he submitted to the National Right to Life Committee on Nov. 23 in which he stated that he believes abortions should be legal in cases of rape and incest. 

In an interview that was conducted in Iowa on Friday and posted on the website of ABC News, Tapper asked Gingrich directly when he thinks human life begins.

"Abortion is a big issue here in Iowa among conservative Republican voters and Rick Santorum has said you are inconsistent," Tapper told Gingrich. "The big argument here is that you have supported in the past embryonic stem cell research and you made a comment about how these fertilized eggs, these embryos are not yet 'pre-human' because they have not been implanted. This has upset conservatives in this state who worry you don’t see these fertilized eggs as human life. When do you think human life begins?"

Gingrich responded: "Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don't then follow through the logic of: 'So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?

"I think," Gingrich continued, "that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that's been successfully implanted that now you're dealing with life, because otherwise you're going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult quesitons."

Tapper then asked: "So implantation is the moment for you?"

"Implantation and successful implantation," said Gingrich.

"In addition," said Gingrich, "I would say that I've never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that's a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.

"What I reject," Gingrich told Tapper, "is the idea that we're going to take one life for the purpose of doing research for other purposes and I think that crosses a threshold of de-humanizing us that's very, very dangerous."

Gingrich's remarks elicited criticism from Rep. Michele Bachmann, a rival candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and from pro-life websites.

On Saturday, Gingrich's campaign posted a written statement in which Gingrich said he believes life begins at conceptoin and pointed out that he had previously expressed his support for legislation that would define a child from the moment of conception as being a "person" under the 14th Amendment. That would mean that all human beings from the moment of conception would be entitled under the Constitution to receive equal protection of the law from state governments.

Gingrich's statement did not refer to his Friday interview with Tapper. 

"As I have stated many times throughout the course of my public life, I believe that human life begins at conception," Gingrich said in the statement. I believe that every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived.

"I also believe that we should work for the day when there will be no abortoin for any reason, and that every unborn child will be welcomed into life and protected by law," Gingrich continued.

"That is why I have supported, and will continue to support, pro-life legislation that not only limits, but also reduces, the total number of abortions, with a view to the eventual legal protection of all unborn human life.

"As I have also stated in the past, on day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan's Mexico City policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas," said Gingrich in the statement.

"I will also work with Congress to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood so that no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions but rather transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and otehr pro-family policies, and to enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn.

"In terms of new pro-life legislation, I stated as recently as November 19, at a public forum of candidates in Iowa that I support Congress enacting pro-life legislation under the 14th Amendment, including legislation that would define personhood as beginning at conception," Gingrich said in the statement.

"As I have also made clear in several of my public pronouncement throughout this campaign, I oppose federal funding of any research that destroys a human embryo because we are also dealing here with human life," said Gingrich.

"My convictions on human life are longstanding, deeply felt, and irrevocable matters of conscience," said Gingrich in the statement. "I will do all in my power--always--to foster reverence for life."

On Nov. 23, Gingrich submitted a candidate questionnaire to National Right to Life. The questinnaire was posted online by his campaign on Friday. The first question of the quesionnaire asks: "Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe abortion should be legal?"

Gingrich checked option "b." It states: "To prevent the mother's death, in cases of incest committed against a minor, and in reported cases of rape involving force or threat of force."

The National Right to Life questionnaire also asks about a candidate's position on research that kills human embryos. Question 18 asks: "As president would you use the powers of your office--including the power of executive order and the veto power, if necessary--to prevent federal support of research that harms or destroys human embryos or that uses cells or tissues that are obtained by harming or killing human embryos?"

Gingrich answered this question: Yes.