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Santorum: Abortion issue distinguishes me from other GOP candidates

WEST DES MOINES — Presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn) says he wants to be “known as the strongest, most-principled, authentic conservative” candidate in the 2012 elections, and emphasized his activism on social and cultural issues, specifically abortion, on Tuesday.

“It’s one thing to go in front of a pro-life group and say you’re pro-life,” Santorum told the media after a private meeting at West Des Moines’s Informed Choices Medical Clinic, which recently opened as a clinic offering women limited reproductive health care services that exclude contraception and abortion. “(But) it’s another thing to go out and actively work as an elected official to make real changes to culture when it comes to this issue.”

Abortion is one topic where the devoted Catholic Santorum says he separates himself “out of the pack” of Republican presidential candidates.

“(It’s) not because they don’t check the box — I think they can say they’re all pro-life, and that’s a good thing — and I’m glad the candidates out there are pro-life. But none of them have really taken the role of leadership on those issues,” he said, citing his spearhead efforts in the U.S. Senate to stop abortion in the United States, including authoring the “partial birth” abortion ban statute, Born Alive Infants Protection Act, and crusading against stem cell research.

Santorum was candid Tuesday while speaking about the fight for anti-abortion mandates, including his support of allowing “Congress and states to legislate beyond the 22 weeks” gestation as outlined in Roe v. Wade. Iowa currently follows federal law, though House Republicans have made exceptional strides this session to restrict abortions, which some opponents say actually bans all abortion procedures and measures.

Santorum, who is not in support of criminal penalties for women who receive abortions, called health exceptions to abortion bans, “phony” because it “would make the ban ineffective.”

However, the former Senator does not want to be known as a one-trick pony. He echoed many other Republican candidates’ view on phasing out ethanol subsidies, and also criticized President Barack Obama by saying the President has “been hostile to the business community and toward business in general.”

Santorum said he is developing a policy centered on creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S., another point Obama has been antagonistic toward, he said.

“If we’re going to really going to transform America and create the opportunity for all Americans to participate in the recovery, we need to focus on how we can make more things here in America,” Santorum said. “I support a pro-growth agenda. It’s not just taxes. I think it’s also the regulatory environment, what we can do to push through reforms of our litigation system, about the implementation of legislation and how we enforce a lot of those regulations.”

Santorum, a father of seven, was an attorney prior to his political career. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1990, serving two terms before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994. He lost his last election in 2006 to Democrat Bob Casey Jr.

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