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Republican Presidential Candidates Discuss Abortion, Stem Cells as Part of First Debate

Ten Republican presidential candidates on Thursday in their first televised debate -- held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley , Calif. -- fielded questions about their views on abortion rights, stem cell research and other issues, the Washington Post reports.

The 90-minute debate included Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.); former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson; and Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Ron Paul (Texas) and Tom Tancredo (Colo.). The debate, which was sponsored by MSNBC and Politico.com, involved a "mixture" of questions from Chris Matthews of MSNBC and John Harris of Politico.com, as well as questions submitted online from viewers, the New York Times reports.

Abortion-Rights Comments

According to the Times, the candidates considered front-runners -- Romney, Giuliani and McCain -- differed on social issues, such as abortion rights and stem cell research. McCain, "alone among the top three contenders," has a "career-long" record of opposing abortion, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports.

Giuliani, who has said he supports abortion rights, gave "conflicting signals" on the issue, according to the Times. Giuliani said he would not be upset if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that barred state abortion bans, but later he endorsed abortion rights. "It would be O.K. to repeal" Roe, Giuliani said, adding, "Or it would be O.K. also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as a precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision." Giuliani also said that he supported public financing of abortion for poor women in New York state but added that "people can come to a different decision."

Romney discussed his shift from supporting abortion rights during his run for gov ernor of Massachusetts to becoming an abortion-rights opponent, the Times reports. "I've always been personally pro-life, but for me there was a great question about whether or not government should intrude in that decision," Romney said. He added that it was the debate over cloning in his state that influenced him to change his stance on abortion-rights. "I was wrong and changed my mind," Romney said, adding, "I'm proud of that, and I won't apologize to anybody for becoming pro-life".

All of the candidates were asked if the repeal of Roe would be a good day for the country. Brownback said it would be a "glorious day of human liberty and freedom" if Roe case were overturned, and Tancredo said it would be the "greatest day in this country's history". Gilmore said that the Roe case had been "wrongly decided".

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Comments

Giuliani and McCain were the only candidates to support federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. Giuliani offered support for funding such research if it is "not creating life in order to destroy it, as long as we're not having human cloning, and we limit it to that". Brownback voiced his opposition to the research, saying, "It's not necessary to kill a human life for us to heal people".


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