Continued from page 1

When the debate turned to abortion, Mr. Santorum directed his attacks at Mr. Paul, pointing out that National Right to Life Committee gave Mr. Paul a 50 percent lifetime rating based on his votes on pro-life issues, about the same, he said, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

“You should have the willingness to stand up on a federal level and protect what our Constitution protects,” Mr. Santorum said.

Mr. Paul responded by appealing to states’ rights, emphasizing that he opposes abortion but saying that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a federal right to an abortion, could be reversed if the issue was left up to the states.

“I see abortion as a violent act,” Mr. Paul said. “All other violent acts are handled by the states.”

Mr. Santorum launched his attack because he thought he had been targeted by Mr. Paul, but the congressman said that wasn’t true.

“You are overly sensitive,” he said.

When asked how they feel about the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) — legislation pending in Congress that would expand the government’s ability to fight Internet piracy — all four said the legislation gives the government too much power to regulate the Internet, although Mr. Santorum added a caveat.

He said the while SOPA goes too far, the government needs to do more to protect property rights online.

“I’m not for people abusing the law, and that’s what’s happening right now,” Mr. Santorum said. “The idea that anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from?”

But Mr. Gingrich blasted the law, pointing to the U.S. Patent Office and existing copyright laws as places companies can already appeal.

“The idea that we’re going to pre-emptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of special interests strikes me as precisely the wrong thing to do,” he said.

The debate, the 17th of the campaign season, is the last one before South Carolina voters turn out to vote.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich appear to be battling for first place here, while polls show Mr. Paul and Mr. Santorum battling in the lower tier.

Even as the debate was proceeding, Mr. Gingrich’s campaign announced he had released his 2010 income-tax forms — once again putting the spotlight on Mr. Romney, who so far has declined to release his own forms.

“If there’s anything in there that’s going to help us lose the election, we should know it before the nomination,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And if there’s nothing in there, why not release it?”

Story Continues →