2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Pic by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

Personhood USA will be hosting a GOP presidential forum tomorrow in South Carolina at which voters will have the chance to ask candidates questions in a town hall format. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are all slated to attend, but frontrunner Mitt Romney has declined the invitation.

Last year, Romney came under fire for his failure to sign an anti-abortion pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington-based advocacy group. Arguing that the pledge was “overly broad,” Romney published his own “pro-life pledge” on his website, in which he espoused his support for the Hyde Amendment (which would ban the use of federal funding for abortion) and promised that, as president, he would “support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood.”

Romney has also failed to sign a pledge sponsored by Personhood USA and, according to the group, is “the only Republican Presidential Candidate who is not participating in the Presidential Prolife Forum, and the only candidate who has not signed Personhood USA’s Prolife Presidential Pledge.”

Personhood USA agitates on behalf of state measures that define life as beginning at the moment of conception, granting legal rights to fetuses. Voters in Mississippi soundly defeated a personhood measure in their state last November.

David Brody, a correspondent for Conservative CBN News, offered a criticism of Romney’s failure to appear at the forum on his website:

Some analysis on Romney’s decision: If he is 100 percent pro-life, why not show up for an event like this? What is he afraid of exactly? I understand that he’s concerned that candidates and folks in the audience will probably attack his past support for abortion rights but he’s changed now right? That’s what he keeps saying so you would think he would go to an event like this to prove it and shut everybody up. Wouldn’t he be proud of the fact that he went from pro-choice to pro-life? Isn’t that something to shout from the rooftops as a conservative?

Instead, he ditches the event. This isn’t the first time he’s ducked a pro-life event and it won’t be the last. Romney may say he’s pro-life but until he starts showing up at these events, the skepticism will always be there. And it’s entirely understandable from an evangelical standpoint.

“In the past, abortion has been relegated as a side-issue, but no longer,” said Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, in a press release touting the event. “Voters are dissatisfied with liberal Republican candidates who are prolife in word, but not in deed. We have already seen a tremendous outspokenness on the Sanctity of Life from these four candidates. Now voters are eager to ask serious questions about each candidate’s prolife position. Over 50 million innocent children have been killed by abortion since 1973, and we want a President who will not sit by and watch the death toll climb.”

The forum will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Greenville, S.C., tomorrow, Wed., Jan. 18. According to a press release sent out by Personhood USA, seats to the event were almost completely booked by Sunday, though it was only announced on Saturday afternoon.

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