Pawlenty has not always been anti-abortion, it turns out

Tim Pawlenty has been touting his record of opposition to abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, but this hard-line on abortion is somewhat new. One acquaintance of Pawlenty’s says that his “pro-life” stance is faked, and a report by Mother Jones on Thursday demonstrates that Pawlenty approved a “dizzying increase” in funds for Planned Parenthood and other family planning agencies — according to a local paper at the time — during his two terms as governor, as well as cutting abstinence-only programs.

In April, Pawlenty said funding for Planned Parenthood should end.

“Washington has a massive spending problem, and we need to set priorities,” he said. “Recent undercover videos show that employees of America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, aided alleged human traffickers wishing to exploit young girls. Yet, they continue to receive significant taxpayer funding. That should come to an end.”

But it’s not just Planned Parenthood that Pawlenty wants to yank funding from. In a June interview with religious right radio host and lawyer Jordan Sekulow, Pawlenty said he wants to defund any organizations “that are involved in” abortions.

Sekulow asked him, “If you were president and Congress would pass a law in the House and Senate to de-fund Planned Parenthood, would you sign the law?”

Pawlenty responded:

“Yes. I have been strongly pro-life. In fact, the National Review Online, which is of course a conservative publication, did an article about the 2012 candidates and the headline was — the point of the article was — that, based on results and not just rhetoric, I’m the most pro-life candidate running in the race. And so I don’t think taxpayer money should be used to fund organizations that are involved in performing abortions. I think most Americans would agree with that and I strongly would agree with that and would lead those efforts. Beyond that, I’ve got a record of results in this area in Minnesota — having proposed and signed a Women’s Right to Know bill, having proposed and signed legislation on positive alternatives to abortion, a fetal pain bill, and much more. And the pro-life group in Minnesota — the leading one and all the other ones — have said I was the best governor in the modern history of the state on these issues.”

But a report from Mother Jones on Thursday questions Pawlenty’s anti-abortion bonafides.

Over the course of Pawlenty’s career as governor, he increased funding to family planning groups — including those that performed abortions or referred clients to clinics that performed abortions — from $3.8 million to $5 million.

Pawlenty also rejected abstinence-only sex education funding from the federal government in 2008 (though he asked for it back in 2010 as he geared up for a presidential campaign).

The reason for his shifting stance on funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations may have been revealed in an article by Shawn Lawrence Otto in MinnPost last week. Otto was mulling a run for state Senate in the late 1990s as a Republican and asked his friend Tim Pawlenty about campaigning. Pawlenty has some advice on abortion politics:

Pawlenty is a very talented guy, and I respected his opinion. His first question was, “What’s your position on choice?” I hadn’t ever been asked the question quite so pointedly. “You’ve got to take a stand on that first,” he said. “Well,” I said, “OK. I don’t like abortion; I think it’s a really tough personal decision, but not something the government should be getting into one way or the other, so I guess I’m pro-choice.”

He looked at me over his lunch and said, “Well personally, so am I, but here’s the thing. You’ve got to find a way to get your mind around the language of saying ‘pro-life.’ It’s in how you phrase it.”

I’ve since learned I’m not the only one Pawlenty has said this to.