The heated Republican presidential debate in Iowa last night saw plenty of barbs between would-be GOP candidates, but, as our sister site The Iowa Independent points out, the candidates took jabs not only at one another, but at the debate moderators, as well.

One notable theme of the evening was the candidates’ attempts to out-perform one another when the conversation turned to abortion issues.

From The Iowa Independent’s coverage of the debate:

Poised and never appearing flustered, [Michele] Bachmann deflected attack after attack fired by [Tim] Pawlenty, including her compromise on raising Minnesota’s state tax on cigarettes in 2005. Pawlenty was then Governor, Bachmann, a state lawmaker.

Bachmann explained she initially opposed the tax, but later compromised upon learning of a provision in the same legislation that gave strong support to the anti-abortion community and platform.

“You can get money wrong, but you can’t get life wrong,” she said in the debate.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum reiterated his view that abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape or incest. At one point, Santorum said that abortion was even worse than the death penalty, which murderers and rapists can escape. A fetus, on the other hand, cannot be saved once a woman decides to undergo an abortion procedure, he argued.

“You know, the Supreme Court of the United States had a recent case — said the man who committed rape could not be killed, could not be subject to the death penalty. Yet the child conceived as a result of that rape could be,” said Santorum. “That to me sounds like a country that doesn’t have its morals correct. That child did nothing wrong.”

Pawlenty was also questioned about his anti-abortion stance. The National Review recently named Pawlenty the race’s most “pro-life candidate,” a title Pawlenty has often touted since. “Gov. Pawlenty, you often cite an article in National Review saying you may be the strongest pro-life candidate in the race. What is your opinion on what Sen. Santorum said about exceptions, and isn’t he more pro-life than you are?” asked one debate moderator

Pawlenty said that he was “perhaps the most pro-life candidate” in the race because of results, not rhetoric, and said that he was partly responsible for the abortion rate in Minnesota dropping to “historic lows.”

He went on to say that he would sign an anti-abortion bill that contained exceptions (like rape or incest), so long as it “substantially advanced the pro-life cause.” Pawlenty also said that he believes in criminal charges for abortion doctors, but not for the woman undergoing the abortion.

The other candidates on stage also discussed their stances on abortion, but as The Iowa Independent points out, the debate was largely dominated by Bachmann and Pawlenty, who went head-to-head several times.

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