Just days after receiving the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson attempted to clarify his view on right-to-life issues in an exclusive interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
When asked about the role courts should play in deciding such cases, Thompson reiterated his position that, "If the families can't get together … the first recourse needs to be the state government."
In October, however, the former Tennessee senator said that excluding the courts, federal and state governments should stay out of right-to-life decisions.
Thompson stopped short of calling for changes in state law, but suggested courts should side with life.
"People have a right to make the laws in their own state to resolve these issues if families can't get together," he said, "if doctors and families can't stand at that bedside and make a decision, which, as I say, I hope would be always in favor of life if there is a chance for life -- if there is a chance for life. And if that can't be resolved, then it should go to the state court mechanism."
Discussing the 2005 case of Terry Schiavo, Thompson expressed his continued opposition to federal involvement in right-to-life cases.
"Congress took an extra step, said, 'We want you to have a federal hearing also.' The federal court, as I recall, came to the same conclusion the state court did. The point is, it is a family matter -- ought to be a family matter," he said.
In the Schiavo case, a Republican-led Congress passed a bill allowing doctors to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, despite her husband's wishes to remove it. The Supreme Court later decided in favor of her husband.
But Thompson said he thinks the husband's motives may have been "suspect" and that he would have sided with Schiavo's parents.
"From what I know about the facts, or recall about it, I would side with the parents in, you know, keeping that child alive. ... Based on the notion that I can't imagine a parent or a spouse or a doctor deciding anything -- if there's any question that this person might live."
The Schiavo case hits close to home for the presidential hopeful, whose own daughter, Betsy Panici, died in 2002 from a brain injury following cardiac arrest after what was deemed an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
"I don't think you're going to have that factual situation in many of the cases," he said. "It ought to be a family decision, just like it was in our decision."