WASHINGTON (BP) -- Pro-life advocates and social conservatives have enthusiastically greeted the selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney, who will receive the official GOP nomination for president at the party's convention Aug. 27-30, named Ryan as his running mate Saturday (Aug. 11).

The representative from Wisconsin is best known for his leadership on federal budget issues. Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has gained a reputation for a willingness to put forth bold ideas addressing the country's economic woes -- ideas that have drawn applause and criticism. He has acted as the House GOP's intellectual and policy leader in seeking to cut federal spending, reduce the deficit, simplify the tax system and reform Medicare and the healthcare system.

At the same time, he has been a consistent supporter of pro-life and pro-family causes during his seven terms in the House.

The 42-year-old Roman Catholic has compiled a 100 percent pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). He supported such abortion restrictions as the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act and has opposed federal funding of abortion and grants for Planned Parenthood, the country's leading abortion provider. He also voted for a federal marriage amendment to define the institution as only between a man and a woman.

It appears Ryan's addition has caused the differences between the Republican ticket and the Democratic ticket of President Obama and Vice President Biden to become even more noticeable. The White House has strongly supported abortion rights and has opposed all laws -- state and federal -- protecting traditional marriage.

"Actions speak louder than words. In picking Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate, Gov. Romney has made it clear that he seeks a big election which will talk about big issues that will determine the future direction of our country," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "It is now up to the American people to choose. The choice is crystal clear."

The selection of Ryan helped Romney on the pro-life issue, Land said.

"Gov. Romney promised last year in South Carolina that he would pick a vice presidential nominee who is as pro-life as he is," Land said. "In fulfilling that promise, he has assured pro-lifers of his own pro-life bona fides, because Congressman Ryan is vibrantly pro-life."

The Romney-Ryan ticket "stands in sharp contrast to the avowed pro-abortion administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden," NRLC President Carol Tobias said.

Ryan's record shows the "ife issue is an economic issue," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life Action. "This election is a referendum on President Obama's championing of a healthcare plan that is the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade."

Her organization welcomes Ryan's "strong stance against buttressing the abortion industry with hard-earned tax dollars," she said.

Abortion rights advocates and others on the left criticized Ryan's selection on the basis of his stands on the same issues.

Ryan's "extreme anti-choice record shows just how serious a threat Mitt Romney's presidency would be for women," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, one of the country's leading abortion rights organizations. "He has cast 59 votes on reproductive rights while in Congress and not one has been pro-choice. My organization's priority is to make sure President Obama remains in the White House."

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said Romney's choice of Ryan "just underscores" the presidential candidate's "willingness to cave to the extreme Right at every opportunity."

Left-leaning evangelical Christians undoubtedly held a different opinion of Ryan's selection than conservative evangelicals.

In response to the Aug. 11 announcement, Sojourners did not publish comments from its chief executive officer, Jim Wallis, on its website but said it and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had condemned the budget authored by Ryan as "immoral because of its cuts to safety net programs."

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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