Last week, five Republican presidential nominees signed a pledge promising to ”not just check off the pro-life box but show true pro-life leadership if elected president.” Only three of those asked to sign the pledge — Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson and Herman Cain — declined to do so.

The “2012 Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge” is a product of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that aims to “advance, mobilize and represent pro-life women.”

The group’s list called on each GOP presidential candidate to agree to four specific anti-abortion pledges:

  • To only nominate judges “who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench.”
  • To select pro-life appointees to key cabinet positions in their administrations.
  • To advance legislation to end taxpayer-funded abortions “in all domestic and international spending programs” and to defund Planned Parenthood.
  • To advance a “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” sometimes known as a “fetal pain” bill.

To proclaim support for a “fetal pain” bill is a fairly controversial declaration — even for staunch abortion opponents.

In Florida, one such bill (titled the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act”) would have banned women from undergoing induced abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, admitted that the science behind the bill (that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks) was inconclusive, and scientists concur. The bill ultimately failed.

The list of those who signed the pledge includes Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmanm, Rep. Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum.

While both Cain and Romney describe themselves as “pro-life,” critics — and anti-abortion advocates — have lashed out at those who refused to sign. As pointed out by The Washington Post, the Susan B. Anthony Lists’s deputy director, Billy Valentine, was extremely critical of Romney in 2008, during his time as a student activist.

Those who signed the pledge wasted no time throwing their fellow candidates under the bus for failing to sign. In a statement made to LifeNews.com, Santorum said he was disappointed that Romney “chose not to defend those who cannot defend themselves.”

“This past Monday night at the Republican Presidential Debate, I was asked about Governor Romney’s pro-life conversion, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt,” said Santorum. “I apparently spoke too soon.”

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told told LifeNews that while the former Massachusetts governor still pledged to be a pro-life president, the Susan B. Anthony List’s well-intentioned effort contained “some potentially unforeseen consequences” that prevented him from signing it “in good conscience.” When asked to specify, Saul said: “The pledge calls for legislation to strip taxpayer funding from hospitals around the country, and strictly limits the choices a President would have to appoint cabinet members.”

Bachmann also joined the chorus against Romney. “It is distressing that Governor Romney refuses to sign the SBA Pledge, even while claiming to be pro-life. The excuses for not signing clearly continue the doubts about his leadership and commitment to ending the practice of abortion – particularly for a candidate who ran as pro-choice for the Senate and Governorship of Massachusetts,” Bachmann said in a statement.

Cain, who released his own statement in defense of his decision not to sign the pledge, is slated to appear at the National Right to Life convention in Jacksonville later this week, alongside Santorum and Paul.

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