Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty Monday spoke to a jammed meeting room of about 75 people at Pizza Ranch in Boone. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, focused most of speech on government regulations and spending &mdash; both of which he argued are out of control. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns</em></span>
Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty Monday spoke to a jammed meeting room of about 75 people at Pizza Ranch in Boone. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, focused most of speech on government regulations and spending — both of which he argued are out of control. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BOONE — Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, an Evangelical Christian who liberally sprinkled his autobiography with biblical verses and describes himself as “pro-life” on abortion, said Monday that he doesn’t think women who have abortions or doctors who perform them should be penalized criminally.

This morning, his staff clarified that position, saying Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, wants to see abortion providers penalized, possibly criminally, but not mothers — should his pro-life view prevail and abortion turn from the generally legal procedure it is today to a prohibited act.

In an interview that touched on the topics of rural economic development and abortion after an event at the Pizza Ranch in Boone Memorial Day afternoon Pawlenty said he didn’t have a specific penalty in mind for abortion. But Pawlenty, a former state legislative leader and attorney with experience as a prosecutor, offered an initial take on the question.

 “I don’t think we want to make it a criminal sanction but I think there should be some kind of penalty or consequence, but we don’t have a specific proposal as to what that would be,” Pawlenty told the Daily Times Herald.

Pawlenty declined to answer a follow-up question about how much, if any, time he has devoted to considering the penalty element of the abortion debate.

Eric Woolson, the veteran Iowa GOP operative who is Pawlenty’s senior adviser and communications consultant, called the Daily Times Herald after the interview to elaborate on Pawlenty’s comments Monday. “As you know, this was the last question in the press scrum and discussion got chopped off.” Woolson said. “To be clear, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue of abortion returns to the states for them to decide the issue and penalties, if any. As to the governor’s views on these matters, he believes that if abortion becomes illegal, abortion providers should be subject to a penalty possibly including a criminal penalty. However, he does not believe women should be penalized.”

Added Woolson, “I apologize for creating the confusion by ending the discussion because we were behind schedule.”

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of the anti-abortion group Iowans For Life, said in a phone interview today that she similarly believes that mothers should be held harmless in any potential abortion sentencing.

“Criminal sanctions should be in place for the providers,” DeWitte said. “(Mothers) are the ones that are being deceived by the providers.”

The fact that Pawlenty didn’t arrive at that answer on first blush concerns DeWitte.

“It does give me pause, especially when you look at the potential presidential candidates we have,” DeWitte said.

Some of them have have been more quick and clear on abortion, she said.



DeWitte did say Pawlenty has a strong record on anti-abortion or pro-life issues.

Before the session with The Daily Times Herald, Boone and Ames media and The Des Moines Register, Pawlenty spoke to a jammed meeting room with about 75 people at Pizza Ranch.

Pawlenty focused most of his speech on government regulations and spending — both of which he argued are out of control.

“You can’t be pro-job and anti-business,” Pawlenty said. “That’s like being pro-egg and anti-chicken.”

When government benefits are too generous, it creates an entitlement atmosphere, Pawlenty said, adding that the best way to understand this dynamic is to observe people at two different types of weddings.

“Go to one where there’s an open bar,” Pawlenty said. “Go to one where there’s a cash bar.”

He added, “The open-bar mentality has us in a heap of trouble, as you know.”

Pawlenty said one of his chief charges as president would be to return government to its “proper limits.”

Raised a Catholic, Pawlenty, 50, converted early in his relationship with his wife, Mary, to the Wooddale Baptist Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., a religious institution he described as a leader among Evangelicals in his book, “Courage to Stand.”

He said Monday that religion should play a central role in American public life.

“We need to be a nation that turns toward God, not away from God,” Pawlenty said.

In the media session, Pawlenty said he understands rural communities, ones that aren’t demographic centers and are in decline. Minnesota as well as Iowa faces this challenge, he said.

“The real answer is we need to make sure we get economic opportunity there because its what keeps people in the community,” he said. “It will give them opportunity to stay.”

Specifically, Pawlenty wants to encourage value-added agriculture, livestock, renewable energy and tax- free zones where investors can put money in rural areas, as well as incentives for higher education and how it relates to local, rural economies.



“These communities are really important,” Pawlenty said. “They’re important to Iowa, and they’re important to the country and we don’t want everybody in the country coming from just one type of city.”

State Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said Pawlenty has an appeal in Iowa, coming across as affable and approachable.

“I think he really is heading in the correct direction and I think that’s critical,” Behn said.

Behn, one of the Iowa Senate’s most committed Christian conservatives who formerly represented Carroll, said he is undecided on a presidential candidate at this point but liked what he’s heard on multiple occasions from Pawlenty.

“To be very honest I am kind of leaning toward the governor,” Behn said.

Behn added, “He really does appear to be grounded with the same philosophical base that I am, and that’s very important to me.”