In remarks sure to cause consternation among the pro-life Republican base, party Chairman Michael S. Steele called abortion "an individual choice" during a GQ magazine interview, though he also said the Supreme Court "wrongly decided" the 1973 case that struck down state limits on abortion and made it an individual right.
In an exchange with reporter Lisa de Paulo, transcribed and posted Wednesday night on the GQ Web site, the new Republican National Committee chairman described his background as an adopted child as showing him "the power of life ... and the power of choice."
"The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other," Mr. Steele said.
The exchange then went as follows, starting with GQ: "Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?" "Yeah. I mean, again, I think that's an individual choice." "You do?" "Yeah. Absolutely."
Mr. Steele then elaborated that he thought "Roe v. Wade — as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter," which prompted Miss DePaulo to ask: "But if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?"
Mr. Steele responded. "The states should make that choice. That's what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide."
Though the former Maryland lieutenant governor always has said he is pro-life and won the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee in his U.S. Senate run in 2006, he often has been viewed with suspicion by pro-life conservatives.
For example, he helped found the Republican Leadership Council with pro-choice Republican Christie Whitman. In a 2006 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said he thought Roe should be followed as settled law and would not say he'd support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
In the wide-ranging GQ interview, Mr. Steele expressed appreciation and admiration for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and said liberals had no right to criticize the two conservative "bomb-throwers," given some of the people they have in their midst, specifically mentioning U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken of Minnesota and Clinton-era insider James Carville.
"Don't give me, 'Rush is a bad guy, we need to offset him.' You already have. You got Al Franken, for goodness sakes," said Mr. Steele, who started a furor recently by calling Mr. Limbaugh's show "ugly" and "incendiary."
"I think it's precious the way the Democrats react to [Miss Coulter] and many others, like Rush Limbaugh. ... They've become so sanctimonious about her and what she has to say. Yes, she's got an edge to her — and it's great."
Mr. Steele also told GQ of his failed attempts in 2005 to meet with Barack Obama — then a freshman U.S. senator from Illinois. At the time, with no black governors and no other black lieutenant governors or senators, the two men were the nation's highest-ranking black elected officials.
"Noooo. I tried, I tried. When he first came to Washington ... my office called his office several — no, more than several — times, to invite ... for the two of us to sit down and get to know each other," Mr. Steele said. "His office told my staff they didn't see any need for the two of us to meet. So I'm like, 'Oh-kay. All right. I don't know what that's all about, but that's fine.' ... Then, when I ran for the Senate [in 2006], he was the only African-American elected official in the country to come and campaign against me. Nobody else."