"TAPPER: Abortion is a big issue here in Iowa among conservative Republican voters and Rick Santorum has said you are inconsistent. The big argument here is that you have supported in the past embryonic stem cell research and you made a comment about how these fertilized eggs, these embryos are not yet “pre-human” because they have not been implanted. This has upset conservatives in this state who worry you don’t see these fertilized eggs as human life. When do you think human life begins?
GINGRICH: Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’
I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions"
Many may see this as a case of semantic silliness but it isn't. In my opinion it signifies a certain cowardice which is betrayed by the last sentence in the quote above. Gingrich is right that to believe life begins at conception does open the door to many questions that are difficult, questions that have a direct bearing on whether the many medical procedures that create embryos for implantation or in fact creating babies, tiny human beings that are then used as things to be implanted, frozen, thrown away or experimented on.
For a man like Gingrich, one that never seems to shy from a fight about ideas, it's nearly impossible to believe that just the fact that difficult questions are created would be enough to preclude him from accepting something as true. I don't believe this is the reason he takes the stand that he does in the interview.
Gingrich goes on to say:
"Implantation and successful implantation. In addition I would say that I’ve never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.
What I reject is the idea that we’re going to take one life for the purpose of doing research for other purposes and I think that crosses a threshold of de-humanizing us that’s very very dangerous."
This is where we get to the heart of the matter; he's trying to have it both ways. If he honestly accepts the argument that he's put forth, that life begins at implantation, not conception, then he shouldn't have any problem at all with any use of none implanted embryos. But in the above quote he says that he's nearly always opposed embryonic stem cell research. Why?
I think I know. He's trying to walk a fine line. He doesn't want to offend the pro-aborts in the Republican party, the big pharma and medical research firms that donate money or the Dems that just might cross the line because they've become so frustrated with the direction their party has taken. But at the same time he's throwing a bone to the pro-life camp, giving them something to hang their hats on so they can still vote for him with a clear conscience. He figures he's probably got their vote anyway when it comes right down to it so he just has to give 'em a friendly nudge.
This is the kind of thing I'm watching for with Gingrich. He's showing his true colors here. He's more interested in politics than principle in the abortion battle.
And, if he's willing to throw babies under the bus to get elected, what else will he do?
So the question remains - has Gingrich changed? It's not looking good so far.