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June 20, 2011

Pledge and Effect: What the Anti-Choice Presidential Candidates Signed Up to Deliver

An anti-choice group, the Susan B. Anthony List, recently announced that the vast majority of the GOP presidential candidates signed its pledge to enact a wide range of attacks on women’s freedom and privacy if they move into the White House.

NARAL Pro-Choice America reviewed the pledge’s key elements and issued the following assessment of how this extreme pledge would undermine women’s freedom and privacy.

PLEDGE LANGUAGE:  [O]nly nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;

EFFECT:  In far-right conservative circles, the pledge’s language is code for judges who will vote to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to choose.

  • “If [a nominee] is a strict constructionist, he will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.” – Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1990
  • “If [George W. Bush] does [appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution], Roe v. Wade can’t stand because abortion is not in the Constitution.” – Carol Long Tobias, National Right to Life Committee PAC director, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 28, 1999

PLEDGE LANGUAGE: [To] select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Justice;

EFFECT:  The following is a list of potential policy changes that could harm women’s access to reproductive-health services or invite political interference in the federal scientific research process:

PLEDGE LANGUAGE: [To] advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;

EFFECT:  Anti-choice groups use the framework of public funding to conceal the even more far-reaching elements of their agenda. In anti-choice terms, “ending taxpayer funding of abortion” means: 

If you have questions about these policies, please contact the NARAL Pro-Choice America communications department at 202-973-3032 or at

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