WASHINGTON-One of the nation's top pro-life groups, the Susan B. Anthony List, announced Friday it is endorsing Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential primary race. It is the group's first-ever endorsement of a candidate during the GOP primary season.
"Among the field of strong pro-life candidates in the GOP primary, one stands out as a proven leader in this great human and civil rights cause of our time," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List. "Rick Santorum communicates the vision and has exhibited the strategic and tactical prowess the pro-life movement must have in order to succeed."
With Mitt Romney trying to hold off the surging Santorum as the campaign heads to Michigan and Arizona for primaries later this month, the SBA List endorsement highlight's the difficulty he faces among social conservatives. Romney switched to a pro-life position in 2005 while governor of Massachusetts.
Dannenfelser said the endorsement decision was made because the group believes that the primary process is at an inflection point, adding that the abortion issue faces a tipping point on the national stage. According to Jane Abraham, chairman of the SBA List board of directors, the board unanimously decided to back Santorum.
As a senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum authored the 2003 federal partial-birth abortion ban that President George W. Bush singed into law. Santorum also was the main sponsor of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, signed into law by Bush in 2002, which gave rights to infants born alive after failed abortions.
Santorum also has supported numerous other pro-life legislation, including bills making it a federal offense to kill or injure an unborn child while committing a crime; providing grants to enable non-profit groups to buy ultrasound equipment; prohibiting individuals from bypassing state parental consist laws by taking minors across state lines for abortions.
During the Senate's debate over partial-birth abortion, then-Sen. Santorum stood up on the Senate floor and rebutted the pro-abortion argument that partial-birth abortions are needed when parents are faced with a disabled baby.
"Think about the message we are sending to the less-than-perfect children in America and the mothers who are right now dealing with the possibility of delivering an abnormal baby," he said.
The pro-life issue is a personal passion for Santorum. In 1996, he and his wife, Karen, lost a son who died two hours after being born prematurely. Then, in 2008, Karen Santorum gave birth to a daughter, Isabella, who was diagnosed with a serious genetic disorder. In both cases, the Santorum's resisted recommendations to have abortions.
"You want to know why I am pro-life," Santorum said last October during a speech to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. "Because God showed me that if you are faithful He will be faithful. We need people who are leaders in this country who believe that."
The endorsement from the SBA List, which has more than 365,000 members, gives Santorum a boost as social issues begin to play more of a role in the campaign in the aftermath of the Obama administration's controversial contraceptive mandate. The endorsement also came on a day that Santorum was forced to answer questions about one of his top donors.
Foster Friess, one of the Santorum campaign's top contributors, jokingly said in a Thursday interview, "Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly."
Santorum on Friday said he has supported federal funding on contraception and blamed the media for playing gotcha politics by trying to tie him to his supporter's comments.
"This is someone who is a supporter of mine, and I'm not responsible for every comment that a supporter of mine makes," said Santorum on CBS's This Morning. "When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad, off-color joke and somehow I'm responsible for that, that's 'gotcha.'"