ANALYSIS | Republican Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999, which placed him in an adversarial position to Democratic President Bill Clinton. He made the decision to step down in 1998, in part -- as outlined by a phone conversation excerpt transcribed by the AP and published by the New York Times -- "to get the bitterness out." With his politics considered divisive by his own base, it is interesting to look at Gingrich's positions on social issues, in particular gay marriage and abortion, which are highly divisive even among Republicans.
Gingrich on Abortion: Defund Planned Parenthood
It is not surprising that the Republican candidate walks the party line with respect to the termination of pregnancies. Although Gingrich does not favor an overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalizes abortions, he calls for an end to "taxpayer subsidies for abortion," in part through a repeal of President Barack Obama's health care plan. He further seeks to defund Planned Parenthood, which -- in the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year -- received in excess of $363 million in government funds, as highlighted by CNS News in March.
On a side note, since Planned Parenthood is credited with performing 332,278 pregnancy terminations in 2009, it bears mentioning that Guttmacher Institute researchers found the number of 2008 abortions to total approximately 1.21 million in the United States. Thus, Planned Parenthood is a major abortion provider for American women.
Candidate Gingrich on Gay Marriage: A Temporary Aberration
Social progressives have little praise for Newt Gingrich. When discussing same-sex marriage at Fort Dodge in September, the candidate made it clear that he does not favor it. "I believe that marriage is between a man and woman. It has been for all of recorded history and I think this is a temporary aberration that will dissipate. I think that it just fundamentally goes against everything we know," the Des Moines Register quotes Gingrich.
The candidate's opposition to gay marriage is well-known. The Huffington Post recounted a (juvenile) May 2011 incident involving a gay-rights protester, Gingrich, his wife, a book signing and lots of glittery confetti: "Feel the rainbow, Newt! Stop the hate! Stop anti-gay politics," the protester warned Gingrich before being jostled out of the venue.
"Nice to live in a free country," Gingrich quipped in response.
Religion, Language and Drugs
Open displays of religious faith are another issue of importance to the candidate. Religious expression is to be protected in public, including "crosses, crèches and menorahs." The candidate's "21st Century Contract with America" calls for the establishment of the English language as the "official language of government."
In somewhat of a reversal from prior campaigns and positions, the St. Petersburg Times outlines that Newt Gingrich has thrown his support behind William Bennett. The latter champions drug treatment rather than mandatory incarceration for "low-level, nonviolent" drug offenders. Although Gingrich -- as late as 2009 -- spoke out against medical marijuana in a YouTube clip, the National Drug Strategy Network highlights his much more severe 1995 stand, advocating "mandatory executions for drug dealers."
At this time, the electorate is not buying presidential candidate Gingrich's brand of conservatism. An October Gallup Poll summary shows that Gingrich had his strongest showing in the period between May 20 and May 24 with 12 percent; thereafter his numbers declined into the single digit. Between Oct. 3 and 7, he showed with 7 percent, which places him behind Mitt Romney (20 percent), Herman Cain (18 percent), Rick Perry (15 percent) and Ron Paul (8 percent).