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Fred Thompson on Abortion

Former Republican Senator (TN)


Life begins at conception; abortion takes a life

Q: You were endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, but you oppose a constitutional ban on abortion. You say you’d like to see it the way it was before Roe vs. Wade, with the decision up to states. So let me ask you two yes or no questions. Do you believe that life begins at conception?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you believe that abortion is the taking of life?

A: Yes.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews Nov 25, 2007

Reverse Roe & return abortion to states, to allow SOME bans

Q: You believe that abortion is the taking of life; so why leave it up to the states where, as you well know, before Roe vs. Wade, some states allowed abortion on demand?

A: What the situation is now is as follows. Because of Roe vs. Wade, all states are restricted from passing rules that they otherwise would maybe like to pass with regard to this area. If you abolish Roe vs. Wade, you’re going to allow every state to pass reasonable rules that they might see fit to pass. There hasn’t been a serious effort to put forth a constitutional amendment because people knew that it wouldn’t pass. What I’ve been talking about is directing our energy toward something that was halfway practical, something that might could get done. So now where we have no states with the option of doing anything about it, then we would have however many states wanted to. You could move from zero yard line, to the 60- or 70-yard line instead of standing pat, which is where we will remain if we don’t abolish Roe vs. Wade.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews Nov 25, 2007

Let states decide abortion with restrictions as they see fit

Q: You said two weeks ago, “I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. That’s what freedom is all about.”

A: Exactly.

Q: That is the essence of the pro-choice argument, not individual choice, but pro-choice for states.

A: No, not really. How many pro-choice people say that they want to see the abolition of Roe vs. Wade? I don’t know any. What I’m talking about is abolishing Roe vs. Wade [and allowing the abortion decision at the state level].

Q: So even if you disagree with them, states could have abortion on demand.

A: No, not abortion on demand. They could restrict. They would have the ability to restrict abortion more than they do now.

Q: But pre-Roe vs. Wade, some states had abortion on demand.

A: Well, they would not have anything under that situation that they don’t have now. I mean, the gain would be on the pro-life side. I mean, they have Roe vs. Wade and all of the progeny from that already.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews Nov 25, 2007

Heart swayed by sonogram of his unborn child

[The abortion debate is] going to be ultimately won in the hearts and minds of people. I’m probably a pretty good example of that. Although my head and my legislative record’s always been the same, when I saw that sonogram of my little now 4-year-old, it’s changed my heart. It’s changed the way I look at things. And I think life begins at conception. It was abstract to me before. I was a father earlier when I was very young. I was busy. One of the few advantages you have by getting a little bit older.
Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

No human Life Amendment; let states decide individually

Q: The 2004 Republican Party platform says: “We say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution.” Could you run as a candidate on that platform?

A: No.

Q: You would not?

A: No. That’s been my position the entire time I’ve been in politics. I thought Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. I think this platform originally came out as a response to particularly Roe v. Wade because of that. Before Roe v. Wade, states made those decisions. I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. That’s what freedom is all about. I think Roe v. Wade hopefully one day will be overturned, and we can go back to the pre-Roe v. Wade days.

Q: Each state would make their own abortion laws.

A: Yeah. But to have an amendment going back even further than pre-Roe v. Wade, to have a constitutional amendment to do that, I do not think would be the way to go

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Life begins at conception, but allow early abortions

Q: You said in 1994 as a Senate candidate, “I’m not willing to support laws that prohibit early-term abortions. I’m not suddenly upon election as a senator going to know when life begins. It comes down to whether you believe life begins at conception. I don’t know in my own mind if that is the case so I don’t feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people.” So you yourself don’t know when life begins?

A: No. I didn’t know then.

Q: You know now?

A: My public position has always been the same. I’ve been 100% pro-life in every vote that I’ve ever cast.

Q: Do you believe that life begins at conception, so abortion is the taking of a human life?

A: Yes, I do.

A: But you would allow abortion to be performed in states if chosen by states for people who think otherwise?

A: I do not think that you can have a law that cuts off an age group or something like that. It cannot change the way I feel about it morally, but legally and practically, I’ve got to recognize that fact.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Opposes partial birth ban; but no parental notification

Q: You’re for allowing states to have pro-abortion rights, you say that you would not ban abortion, it’s a woman’s right, and you would not ban it in the first trimester.

A: No, no. It’s a complex issue concerning whether or not you’re going to have a federal law, a federal constitutional amendment, those kinds of things. Nobody’s proposed a federal law on this. I had an opportunity to vote on an array of things over eight years, whether it be partial birth abortion, whether it be Mexico City policy, whether it be transporting young girls across state lines to avoid parental notification laws and all that--100% pro-life. I would take those same positions as president: No federal funding for abortion, no nothing that would in any way encourage abortion. I do not think it is a wise thing to criminalize young girls and perhaps their parents as aiders and abettors or perhaps their family physician. And that’s what you’re talking about. You’re talking about potential criminal law.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series Nov 4, 2007

Lobbied for Planned Parenthood,but always voted against them

Q: When asked about your lobbying, years ago, for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, you said, “That was private life?” Why does that make a difference?

Q: No, what I said was that it was my private law practice, as opposed to my public service. I was a member of a large firm. And it was their client. They asked me to do a little work on it. I made a few calls. Frankly, I’d forgotten about it. But [Planned Parenthood has] come forward now, because I’m their worst nightmare.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida Oct 21, 2007

Appoint only strict constructionist judges

Activist judges across the country seem intent on legislating from the bench to promote a culture of abortion, redefine marriage, and undermine families--in effect re-shaping the values of our entire society without the consent of the people. We need judges who recognize their role in our democracy is to interpret, not make, the law. I am committed to appointing strict constructionist judges who will interpret the law, not impose their views on us by legislating from the bench.
Source: Campaign website, www.Fred08.com, “Issues” Sep 20, 2007

1991: Consulted for pro-abortion group, as part of law firm

A former law colleague of Fred Thompson said Thompson worked in the 1990s for a group trying to loosen abortion restrictions. Thompson has consistently voted in favor of anti-abortion legislation.

Because many social conservatives see Thompson as their best hope for an anti-abortion president in 2008, any perceived weakness in his position on abortion could damage his appeal among those voters.

Thompson worked at Arent-Fox, which was hired in 1991 by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association to help the group persuade the White House rescind a rule prohibiting abortion counseling at federally funded clinics. Reportedly, the only person who worked on the NFPRHA job was Thompson.

Thompson’s spokesman said Thompson “has no recollection of doing any work on behalf of this group. He may have been consulted by one of the firm’s partners who represented this group in 1991. As any lawyer would know, such consultations take place within law firms everyday.”

Source: CNN.com, Election Center 2008 Jul 9, 2007

Doesn’t recall 1994 survey ok’ing abortion; doesn’t ok it

Q: You checked a box in 1994 when you were running for Senate, where the box said, “Abortion should be legal in all circumstances for the first three months.” That wasn’t your voting record, interestingly. Did you make a mistake checking the box?

A: I don’t remember that box. It was a long time ago, and I don’t know if I filled it out or my staff, based on what they thought my position was, filled it out. But here’s what the deal is on that. I’ve always thought that Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision.

Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

Roe usurped 200 years of law; return decision to states

I’ve always thought that Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision, that they usurped what had been the law in this country for 200 years, that it was a matter that should go back to the states. When you get back to the states, I think the states should have some leeway. I might vote against one approach, but I think the states ought to have it. Essentially, federalism. It’s in the Constitution.
Source: Fox News “Hannity & Colmes” interview Jun 6, 2007

Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad science

On the issue of abortion Thompson was unequivocal: “Prolife.” Asked if he supported overturning Roe v. Wade, Thompson was equally unequivocal: “I think Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad medical science And the way to address that is through good judges. I don’t think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It’s contrary to what it’s been the past 200 years... That’s what happened in this case [Roe v. Wade]. I think it was wrong.”
Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.143-144 Jun 3, 2007

Appoint strict constructionist judges

As President, Thompson would appoint strict constructionist judges like the man he helped through the confirmation process to the position of Chief Justice, John Roberts.
Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.162 Jun 3, 2007

Has never been pro-choice despite 1994 news reports

Some news reports from Thompson’s 1994 campaign classified him as pro-choice. Thompson confesses to being perplexed over the confusion about his position on the issue: “I have read these accounts [about me being pro-choice] and tried to think back 13 years ago as to what may have given rise to them, although I don’t remember it.”

But, he adds: “I was interviewed and rated pro-life by the National Right to Life folks in 1994, and I had a 100% voting record on abortion issues while in the Senate.” Planned Parenthood gave him a ZERO rating because of his pro-life voting record. NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) gave him an “F” rating when considering potential vice-presidential candidates in 2000.

Ultimately, however, Thompson is motivated on the issue from a personal level, not just a legalistic or moralistic viewpoint. He has said the issue “means more’’ to him now because he has had two children in recent years. ”I have seen the sonograms of my babies.’’

Source: The Fred Factor, by Steve Gill, p.159-160 Jun 3, 2007

Judges should not make new social policy for the country

Q: Let’s do a lightning round. Abortion.

A: Pro-life.

Q: Do you want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

A: I think Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad medical science. And the way to address that is through good judges. I don’t think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It’s contrary to what it’s been the past 200 years. We have a process in this country to do that. Judges shouldn’t be doing that. That’s what happened in that case. I think it was wrong.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews Mar 11, 2007

Voted YES on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions.

Vote on a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities.
Reference: Bill S 2549 ; vote number 2000-134 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions.

This legislation, if enacted, would ban the abortion procedure in which the physician partially delivers the fetus before completing the abortion. [A NO vote supports abortion rights].
Status: Bill Passed Y)63; N)34; NV)3
Reference: Partial Birth Abortion Ban; Bill S. 1692 ; vote number 1999-340 on Oct 21, 1999

Voted YES on banning human cloning.

This cloture motion was in order to end debate and move to consideration of legislation banning human cloning. [A YES vote opposes human cloning].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)42; N)54; NV)4
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on motion to proceed to S. 1601; Bill S. 1601 ; vote number 1998-10 on Feb 11, 1998

Other candidates on Abortion: Fred Thompson on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010