The president of the United States wields a great deal of power over reproductive freedom and choice through judicial nominations, budget appropriations and the veto power. All eight major contenders for the Republican nomination are vehemently anti-abortion. But on family planning, emergency contraception for rape and incest victims, insurance coverage for birth control and other issues related to women's health, the candidates vary widely in their records and stances.
Five candidates -- Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Gov. Rick Perry (Texas) -- signed the Susan B. Anthony List's 2012 Pro-life Leadership Pledge to nominate only anti-abortion candidates to the Supreme Court and other Cabinet and executive branch positions and to defund Planned Parenthood.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), former Gov. Jon Huntsman (Utah) and Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza refused to join the pact, which Romney said was because it could block some federal funding from going to hospitals and would restrict his ability to appoint certain Cabinet members.
While candidates such as Huntsman and Perry have expressed support for certain family planning and sex education programs as well as emergency contraception for rape victims through bills they signed as governors, other candidates such as Santorum and Gingrich would like to zero out funds for programs including Title X, the nation's only program dedicated solely to providing family planning services and contraception to low-income women.
The Susan B. Anthony List told HuffPost it has not endorsed any particular candidate yet out of the ones who have signed the anti-abortion pledge. Samantha Gordon, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said NARAL refused to rank the candidates in any way because "they are all bad" on choice issues.
"We have no doubt that threats to these basic rights of women would become far worse with either one of these candidates in the White House," Gordon said.
HuffPost compiled a slideshow highlighting the candidates' stated views and voting records on issues related to women's health and reproductive choice:
Romney's position on abortion and other women's health issues switched from pro-choice to anti-choice during his term as governor from 2003 to 2007, and his record on choice-related issues is mixed. He vetoed a measure that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription to rape victims, but he signed into law a measure to expand family planning services for low-income women and families in Massachusetts. Romney was also one of the few GOP candidates who refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's pro-life pledge, because his camp said it could have some "potentially unforeseen consequences." But he believes abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, and he said if he were president he would support the reversal of Roe v. Wade. "This is not the time for the Republican Party to put up a candidate who is weak on the pro-life issue or has a history of flip-flopping over it," Bachmann said of Romney at a National Right to Life convention in June. Romney said as president he would defund Planned Parenthood, and then took it even further saying he'd "get rid of that" altogether.
During his 19 years in Congress, Gingrich cast 74 votes on reproductive rights, women's health and family planning issues, and 72 of those were anti-choice. Gingrich voted multiple times to give legal "personhood" status to an embryo and supported the Federal Abortion Ban, which would impose a two-year prison sentence on doctors who perform certain kinds of abortions. He also repeatedly voted to deny military women the right to have abortions at military hospitals, even if they paid for it themselves, and cited "biological problems" as his reason for opposing women's right to join the military. As president, Gingrich has said he would try to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate the entire Title X program, which provides non-abortion family planning services for millions of low-income women across the country.
Paul has stated he is pro-life, however he's more moderate on abortion than some of the other GOP presidential candidates, particularly Rick Santorum. When pressed, he conceded that if one of his daughters was raped, he would not want her to have the child. Paul weighed in on contraception on "The Tonight Show" in March. As a former OBG-YN, Paul said he's prescribed a lot of contraception. "If people have reservations about abortion, the abortion is the issue, it isn't the birth control pill. It isn't the instrument, he said.
Santorum wants abortion banned in all circumstances, even in cases of rape and incest; is opposed to all family planning programs; and believes that schools should be forbidden to teach students about contraception. As a senator, Santorum voted against funding pregnancy prevention programs for teens and voted for the "family cap" and the "illegitimacy cap," which would have financially penalized low-income women for having children and penalized states for children born out of wedlock. And one of Santorum's priorities as president, he has said, will be to defund Planned Parenthood, which he believes is motivated by racism and eugenics. "I can't imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind," he told reporters in April.