By Roland S. Martin
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Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a CNN contributor and a talk-show host for WVON-AM in Chicago.
Aside from Rudy Giuliani's torturous explanation of his views on abortion, it was easy to discern after Thursday's debate that the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination are staunch advocates of life, namely when it comes to abortion.
In fact, they were passionate on the issue, and some made it clear that nothing is more important than life itself.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "Well, I've always been personally pro-life."
When asked about the Terri Schiavo case, he replied: "I think the Congress's job is to make sure that laws are respecting the sanctity of life."
California Rep. Duncan Hunter evoked the memory of a late president to explain his position: "Ronald Reagan said, on the question of life, 'When there's a question, err on the side of life.' "
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback was the most eloquent on the subject: "I believe life is one of the central issues of our day, and I believe that every human life at every phase is unique, is beautiful, is a child of a loving God, period."
He later added: "Her life is sacred. Even if it's in that difficult moment that she's in at that point in time, that life is sacred, and we should stand for life in all its circumstances."
On stem cell research, Brownback said, "It is not necessary to kill a human life for us to heal people."
That last line caught my attention because that is often something we hear from victims rights groups, law enforcement and prosecutors when someone is put to death for committing a crime.
But if you take the candidates at face value, then why hold the same view when it comes to the death penalty?
Now, for the purposes of getting everything out in the open: I'm pro-choice. Does that mean I'm marching in the streets advocating abortion? No. For me, it comes down to a woman choosing. And just like Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, I hate abortion and prefer for women not to make that choice. Will some suggest that this is counter to my Christian faith? Absolutely. But it is a difficult position, and one that I have wrestled with and continue to do so.
Yet I also support the death penalty. There are individuals who should lose their life for committing heinous crimes. And yes, I have struggled mightily, and would certainly say that my position has softened on this issue, just like it has on being pro-choice.
But even with all that, it's still important to at least philosophically explore the issue of being a staunch pro-life advocate, yet stop the moment the child is born.
"I believe that every human life at every phase is unique, is beautiful, is a child of a loving God, period." Those are the words of Brownback, but does not that person -- even that hardened criminal -- fall under the same banner?
Folks, it's hard to say on one hand that every life -- at every phase -- is important, but then say, "Send them to the death chamber!" Those two are diametrically opposed to each other.
And I'll be the first to tell you that many Christians -- especially right-wing conservatives -- are staunch anti-abortion advocates on Monday. And on Tuesday, if there is an execution, they are right there supporting that one as well.
It would have been nice had debate moderator Chris Matthews forced the candidates to deal with this issue.
But let's also expand the pro-life dialogue. Where do the Republican candidates stand on funding Head Start for children? Is that not part of the development of human life? Are we going to see Republican candidates seek to change Medicaid laws to allow dentists to better care for those who get government assistance? Or are we willing to see another case like Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died because his family lost their Medicaid, and the boy's abscess, which might have been cured with an $80 tooth extraction, led to his brain becoming infected?
Are the Republican candidates going to vigorously fight for expanded pre-natal care for mothers in many inner cities around America, where the infant mortality rate rivals that of some Third World countries?
What is needed -- on both sides -- is a full-scale discussion on what it really means to be pro-life.
Life is indeed precious. And just as I have tussled with my personal views on being pro-choice and supportive of the death penalty, the pro-lifers should really examine whether they are as passionate about life beyond the womb.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on CNN.com that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view.
CNN contributor Roland Martin wonders: Shouldn't those who object to abortion value the sanctity of all human lives?
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