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Rick Santorum Pleads With Anti-Abortion Iowans To Vote For Him

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- As his poll numbers continue to languish, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum pleaded with a room of anti-abortion voters on Wednesday to support him in the Iowa caucus if they truly wish to end abortion.

"I know the other candidates have said they need your help and support. They're lying. I need your help and support," he said. "If you want to send a message [that] the issues you care about are still important in this election, you know what to do."

Four Republican candidates had gathered in Des Moines for the premiere of an anti-abortion film, all seeking to prove themselves to be the strongest on abortion issues. The film, "The Gift of Life," was created by the conservative group Citizens United and is narrated by onetime GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a potential kingmaker who has yet to issue an endorsement.

Huckabee said he would not endorse a candidate Wednesday evening. But he told the crowd of about 1,000 Iowa voters to take note of which Republican hopefuls made time for the event -- Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry -- and which did not.

"I do want you to take note there are four candidates who cleared their schedules and made this a priority event," Huckabee said. "That ought to be very important for you as you consider."

Santorum tried to paint himself as the most pro-life GOP candidate; he was the only one of the four Republicans to criticize the rest of the field. He said that although the other candidates say they "believe life begins at conception," he considers it to be an absolute truth. "Why say you believe something if it's a fact?" he asked.

When Santorum talked about why Republicans should not concede a "truce" on social issues -- something other GOP politicians have proposed -- a baby in the crowd started to cry.

"I agree," he said.

But even some voters who said they supported him noted that they doubt he will win in Iowa. Bachmann and Santorum are the strongest on abortion issues, said Marshalltown, Iowa, resident John Egnew, who added, "I don't know if they're going to win it or get the nomination or be electable."

"I don't know if Santorum has a chance," said Patricia Aust, a Des Moines resident who plans to support either Santorum or Gingrich. "We'll see."

Another candidate had more to prove to the crowd about his anti-abortion bona fides. Gingrich came under criticism earlier this month for distinguishing between fertilization and implantation in his definition of the beginning of life. It's a distinction that would allow for scientific research on embryonic stem cells.

Rep. Bachmann, often held up as another strong social conservative, attacked him in a Dec. 2 press release, saying his definition showed that he is inconsistent on abortion.

At the Wednesday event, fliers were placed on some cars calling Gingrich "a pro-life fraud."

Gingrich promised Wednesday that if elected president, he would immediately prohibit government funding of abortion and redirect money from Planned Parenthood to adoption services. He added that Congress could act to define the 14th Amendment to ban abortion in a way that could not be blocked by the Supreme Court.

"If the state can decide you're only a person when the state declares it, why stop at Roe v. Wade?" Gingrich said. "Why not go to euthanasia? Why not decide if you aren't 'appropriate' at 14 or 12 or 10?"

The biggest criticism at the Des Moines event was saved for Democrats, particularly President Barack Obama. Bachmann attacked the administration's decision last week to prohibit over-the-counter sales of Plan B One-Step, an emergency contraception pill. While that choice angered many abortion rights advocates, Bachmann said Obama does not truly believe that access to emergency contraception should be limited.

Instead, she said, it was a political calculation.

"President Obama is so tied up in his reelection, even he knew this was one step too far," Bachmann told the crowd. "But too far for now, before his reelection. ... If that would happen, then you know within a nanosecond Plan B would be available on the grocery store aisles. But we aren't ever going to allow that to happen."

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