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Thompson elaborates on key issues

Views: Punish doctors, not patients, for early abortions; rein in judges on gay marriage; deport illegal immigrants.

September 08, 2007|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

LEMARS, IOWA — A day after touting his "100% record against abortion," Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson said Friday that women should face no criminal penalties for having one during the first three months of pregnancy.

Authorities "can do whatever they want to with abortion doctors, as far as I'm concerned," the former Tennessee senator said. But "if it comes down to giving criminal sanctions to a 19-year-old girl and her mama, I'm against that."

Thompson offered new details of his views on several other topics as well during a swing across a conservative rural stretch of western Iowa.

Denouncing judges in Iowa, Massachusetts and other states for decisions opening the way to same-sex marriage, Thompson called for constitutional amendments to curb judges' power to do so.

"What we're seeing here is a totally judicially created problem," he told a crowd in Sioux City.

"You know how many states have affirmatively approved gay marriage? State legislatures? Zero."

Thompson said he backed a constitutional amendment to prevent states from being forced to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state under "some off-the-wall court decision."

And he called for an amendment to bar judges from allowing same-sex marriage in a state unless its legislature had approved it.

He also advocated steps to expel illegal immigrants from the U.S.

"I think that if we catch illegal immigrants who are here, they need to be deported," he told the Sioux City crowd.

"We have the option of prosecuting them," he added. "It's not being done.

"I'm not suggesting that it should be done -- fill up our courtroom with these misdemeanor cases -- but we ought to deport them."

On abortion, his comments echoed the stand that he took when he successfully ran for Senate in the mid-1990s. No woman of child-bearing age, he said, should face criminal sanctions for having an abortion in the first trimester.

He acknowledged that as lawyer and lobbyist, he worked in 1991 and 1992 for a group fighting restrictions on abortion counseling. But once in the Senate, he "voted against these people and everything they were interested in," he said.

Thompson, who formally announced his candidacy Wednesday, is trying to consolidate support of social conservatives who have yet to rally behind his chief rivals in the GOP race, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

On Friday, Thompson expressed broad support for President Bush in a conversation with reporters on his campaign bus as it rolled past cornfields and soy fields.

Responding to a question on whether he would shift the country's direction, Thompson praised Bush's performance on Iraq, the economy and Social Security.

Polls have found that Bush remains popular with many Republicans, even as his approval rating among the entire electorate has sunk.

"I think that we are finally on the right track in Iraq, and we are making progress," Thompson said.

He also praised Bush for "doing a good job" on the economy and said, "I give him credit for the Supreme Court nominations that he's made."

He faulted the president for presiding over "too much spending" at the federal level but backed Bush's efforts to try to overhaul Social Security with private investment accounts.

A line in Thompson's stump speech accuses Washington politicians of failing to take the tough steps needed to keep Social Security solvent.

But on Friday, he refused to say whether he favored benefit cuts, higher taxes or an increase in the retirement age.

"It's not necessary at this stage of the game to say exactly what you would insist upon," he said.

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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