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    GOP chair Michael Steele says abortion is an individual choice - then has to do damage control and backtrack

    In remarks sure to cause consternation among the pro-life Republican base, party Chairman Michael S. Steele called abortion "an individual choice" during a GQ magazine interview, though he also said the Supreme Court "wrongly decided" the 1973 case that struck down state limits on abortion and made it an individual right.
    In an exchange with reporter Lisa de Paulo, transcribed and posted Wednesday night on the GQ Web site, the new Republican National Committee chairman described his background as an adopted child as showing him "the power of life ... and the power of choice."
    "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," Mr. Steele said.
    The exchange then went as follows, starting with GQ: "Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?" "Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice." "You do?" "Yeah. Absolutely."
    Mr. Steele then elaborated that he thought "Roe v. Wade as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter," which prompted Miss DePaulo to ask: "But if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?"
    Mr. Steele responded. "The states should make that choice. That's what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide."
    Though the former Maryland lieutenant governor always has said he is pro-life and won the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee in his U.S. Senate run in 2006, he often has been viewed with suspicion by pro-life conservatives.
    For example, he helped found the Republican Leadership Council with pro-choice Republican Christie Whitman. In a 2006 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said he thought Roe should be followed as settled law and would not say he'd support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
    In the wide-ranging GQ interview, Mr. Steele expressed appreciation and admiration for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and said liberals had no right to criticize the two conservative "bomb-throwers," given some of the people they have in their midst, specifically mentioning U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken of Minnesota and Clinton-era insider James Carville.
    "Don't give me, 'Rush is a bad guy, we need to offset him.' You already have. You got Al Franken, for goodness sakes," said Mr. Steele, who started a furor recently by calling Mr. Limbaugh's show "ugly" and "incendiary."
    "I think it's precious the way the Democrats react to [Miss Coulter] and many others, like Rush Limbaugh. ... They've become so sanctimonious about her and what she has to say. Yes, she's got an edge to her and it's great."
    Mr. Steele also told GQ of his failed attempts in 2005 to meet with Barack Obama then a freshman U.S. senator from Illinois. At the time, with no black governors and no other black lieutenant governors or senators, the two men were the nation's highest-ranking black elected officials.
    "Noooo. I tried, I tried. When he first came to Washington ... my office called his office several no, more than several times, to invite ... for the two of us to sit down and get to know each other," Mr. Steele said. "His office told my staff they didn't see any need for the two of us to meet. So I'm like, 'Oh-kay. All right. I don't know what that's all about, but that's fine.' ... Then, when I ran for the Senate [in 2006], he was the only African-American elected official in the country to come and campaign against me. Nobody else."

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    The backtrack:

    Steele, under fire, walks back 'choice' remark

    RNC Chairman Michael Steele said today that despite telling an interviewer he supports "individual choice" and state-level decisions on abortion, he in fact opposes abortion and supports a Constitutional ban.
    Steele said in a statement through an RNC spokesman:
    I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.
    I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a "choice" before deciding to put me 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. In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.
    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.
    Steele has also been reaching out to anti-abortion leaders to damp down the controversy, a source said.
    But Steele drew fire from activists Thursday morning for his remarks.
    "I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of 'individual choice,'" That is language straight out of Planned Parenthood's messaging playbook," said Charmaine Yoest, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, who said she hadn't heard from the RNC. "There are millions of pro-life Americans, Republican and Democrat, who are looking for leadership on the life issue and they will find Mr. Steele's comments disturbing and demoralizing."
    Another anti-abortion activist and sharp critic of President Barack Obama on the subject, Jill Stanek, was even blunter.
    "Michael Steele has just unmistakably proclaimed himself to be pro-choice," she said in an email. "You thought he was 'embattled' last week over his Limbaugh comment? Ha. He has now stepped both feet into it."
    UPDATE: Family Research Council President Tony Perkins emails, "I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week 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. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge."

 

 

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