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Republican debate turns to sex, religion, family

Santorum achieves momentary common ground by denouncing the birth of children out of wedlock.

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Rick Santorum, center, and Mitt Romney, right, watch as Ron Paul speaks at tonight's 20th Republican debate in Mesa, Ariz. (Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

Jousting at tonight's Reublican debate in Arizona has turned to social issues and immigration, bringing out expressions of outrage, indignation and fleeting agreement among the four GOP candidates.

The audience booed as moderator John King read out a submitted question seeking to know which candidates supported contraception and why. Candidates expressed support for abstinence and deplored what they described as a decline in American morality leading to increased sexual activity and children's being born to unmarried parents.

"The left gets all upset, 'Oh, look at him talking about all this,'" Santorum said, speaking of his support for abstinence. "Just because I'm talking about this doesn't mean that I want a government program to fix it. That's what they do."

Struggling in the polls, former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich accused President Obama of voting to protect abortion-providing doctors.

"It is President Obama who as a state senator voted to protect doctors who kill babies," said Gingrich.

More from GlobalPost: Poll: Obama tops 50% against all Republican contenders in 2012

"I don't think in the history of this country we've seen the kind of attack on religious conscience…that we've seen under Barack Obama," said Romney. Citing recent New York Times coverage, Romney and Santorum both appeared to agree that the number of children born out of wedlock was a sign of moral decay.

"The bottom line is we have a problem in this country and the family is fracturing," said Romney.

Ron Paul, a former obstetrician-gynecologist, said the problem did not stem from the availability of birth control but in the behaviors that caused people to require it.

"It's the morality of society that we have to deal with," said Paul. "But the pills can't be blamed for the immorality of our society."

Rick Santorum also claimed that Obama's 2010 health care law would reduce the US budget deficit, a claim Mitt Romney has made elsewhere. According to Jackie Calmes of The New York Times, this has been judged incorrect: taxes and fees mandated by the law would reduce the US budget defecits by by $210 billion in the first decade between the 2012 and 2021 fiscal years, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

An audience-member question asked each candidate to describe themselves in a single word. Their answers were:

Paul: "Consistent."

Santorum: "Courage."

Romney: "Resolute."

Gingrich: "Cheerful."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120222/republican-debate-turns-sex-religion-family