"I am pro-life. I have a 100 percent voting record on the pro-life issues," Thompson also said in the May interview on FOX. He has argued that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to have an abortion, should be overturned, calling it "bad law and bad medicine" on another FOX News show. But he believes the federal government's role should be limited; in June, he told a newspaper that abortion is "a matter that should go back to the states. When you get back to the states, I think the states should have some leeway." Thompson also told the Weekly Standard that he opposes a constitutional amendment banning abortion.
Lately, his pro-life language has taken on a sharper edge. In June, he told a pro-life group that so-called partial birth abortion is "infanticide." He said he opposes stem cell research on pro-life grounds: "I am for adult stem cell research, not research where the embryos of unborn children are destroyed." The National Right to Life organization, which has always backed Thompson, calls him "a strong pro-life candidate."
Still, some less-than-certain abortion views lurk in his past statements and activities. The Los Angeles Times turned up records indicating that, as a lawyer 16 years ago, Thompson was paid $4,790 to do a little lobbying work for an abortion-rights group. Reporters combing through Thompson's personal papers, now housed at the University of Tennessee, found a 1994 questionnaire in which Thompson said, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government."
And Newsweek came across a 1994 interview that Thompson gave to a Tennessee paper in which he called himself "certainly pro-life" but added, "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions.... It comes down to whether life begins at conception. I don't know in my own mind if that is the case, so I don't feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people."