WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, under attack from conservatives for his position on abortion, reiterated Friday that while he personally believes the procedure is morally wrong, women have the right to choose.
Speaking at Houston Baptist University, Giuliani spoke for about an hour addressing broad issues on terrorism, federalism and social issues. He spent several minutes discussing abortion before taking audience questions.
Calling it a complex issue, Giuliani said some of his thoughts have shifted over the years, but there always have been two main pillars of his beliefs on the issue.
"One, is I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong. And if I were asked my advice by someone who was considering an abortion, I would tell them not to have the abortion, to have the child, and if nothing else, the adoption option exists," Giuliani said.
The second pillar, he said, is "that in a country like ours, where people of good faith, people who are equally decent, equally moral, and equally religious, where they come to different conclusions about this, ... I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. ... I would grant women the right to make that choice" to have an abortion.
He said those two tenets will inform his decision-making and, "it means I am open to seeking ways to limit abortion. I am open to seeking ways to reduce the number of abortions."
Giuliani -- who said he also supports rights for gay couples, but not equal rights to marriage -- said Republicans must get over their differences on such narrower issues, and said he hoped voters would consider him as a candidate that can compete strongly on broader issues in a general election against Democrats.
"Those of us who believe that we have to remain on offense against terrorism, and we have to remain on offense to preserve, protect and expand our growth economy, we have got to unite in this election. Because if we don't unite, and we don't find a way of uniting around broad principles that will appeal to a large segment of this country, if we can't figure that out, we're going to lose this election," said the former New York City mayor.
Giuliani has hit a series of road bumps related to his abortion stance, putting him in the crosshairs of fellow GOP candidates over the issue — especially Ariz. Sen. John McCain — who are staunchly anti-abortion. Giuliani's aides said the remarks were intended to clear up any confusion.
During a debate last week, Giuliani said it would be "OK" if Roe v. Wade were overturned, but it would also be OK if it were upheld. The landmark Supreme Court decision established the right to legalized abortion.
Giuliani also recently acknowledged that he and his ex-wife also contributed to Planned Parenthood, an abortion-rights activist group as well as abortion clinic provider.
Giuliani took a minor blow on Wednesday when Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to reporters during a trip to Brazil, suggested that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights shouldn't participate in holy Communion, one of the Church's major religious rites. Giuliani is Catholic.
And according to a questionnaire Giuliani submitted to the abortion-rights activist group NARAL in 1997, obtained by FOX News, Giuliani supported partial-birth abortion and agreed with all nine abortion-rights positions on the questionnaire.
Giuliani now supports a number of restrictions that he opposed back then, including the ban on partial-birth abortion and parental notification, as long as there is a judicial work-around.
On Friday, Giuliani said his answer to the Roe question is that he would appoint "strict constructionist" judges who would not legislate from the bench, and would interpret the Constitution to the letter of the law. The former prosecutor said there's no way to predict how a judge would rule, adding, "I've been surprised more than once in court."
Responding to a question from a student reporter, Giuliani said that while he supported partial-birth abortion, the congressional debate over the procedure that led to the 2003 federal ban made him decide the procedure was wrong. He said he also believes the ban does not reduce the right to choose because other alternatives are available.
"I read those [congressional] hearings. I thought about that and I agree with it. And I supported that legislation," Giuliani said. Referring to the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban, he added, "Justice Kennedy's opinion convinced me even more that my support for the ban was the correct one."
Giuliani also said he supports the "Hyde amendment," which prohibits federal funding for nearly all abortions.
FOX News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.