HARRISBURG -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith said during a lunchtime appearance here Monday that he does not support any exceptions under which a woman should be allowed to have an abortion.
A questioner after his speech at the monthly Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon asked Mr. Smith about his view on abortion, and noted the recent remarks from fellow GOP U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" are scientifically unlikely to become pregnant.
Mr. Smith, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in the Nov. 6 general election, said he does not agree with Mr. Akin's controversial statements.
"My stance is on record, and it's very simplistic: I'm pro-life, period," said Mr. Smith, a former coal company executive from Armstrong County.
However, he stumbled when asked about how he would convince a daughter or granddaughter who was the victim of a rape that she should carry her potential child to term.
Mr. Smith replied that he "lived something similar to that with my own family, and she chose life. I commend her for that."
He added that his daughter wasn't the victim of a rape. Asked what the similar situation entailed, he said she became pregnant out of wedlock.
Asked if having a child out of wedlock is similar to rape, he replied: "No, no, no, but put yourself in a father's position, yes. It is similar. This isn't ..." He trailed off, then continued: "But back to the original [question], I'm pro-life, period."
He later reasserted that he was not comparing pregnancies from rape and from out of wedlock: "I said I went through a situation. It's very, very difficult. ... I believe life begins at conception. I'm not going to argue about the method of conception. It's a life. And I'm pro-life. It's that simple."
Mr. Casey, who also opposes abortion, does support exceptions in instances of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.
During his prepared remarks and the following question-and-answer session, Mr. Smith focused on his view that the federal government has grown too cumbersome with recent expansions of debt and regulations.
He described President Barack Obama as "waging a war on coal," and called for oversight of oil and gas drilling to be left to the states.
"Government has become so big, so dysfunctional, so suffocating, my grandchildren, your grandchildren no longer have the opportunities we had," he said.
He also addressed the new voter identification law that is being challenging in state court.
Mr. Smith said he believes the law was passed "with the best interest" of voters in mind. "All we're all after is fair elections," he said.
Harrisburg Bureau chief Laura Olson: email@example.com or 717-787-4254. First Published August 28, 2012 4:00 AM