Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is standing by his assertion that a former prisoner-of-war doesn’t understand the value of the harsh interrogation techniques used to elicit information from captured enemies of the country.

Arizona Senator John McCain was held in North Vietnam for five-and-a-half years and endured brutal treatment as a P.O.W. McCain wants the U.S. to refrain from using “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but Santorum maintains information from “enhanced interrogation” led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden. Santorum bristled today during a news conference in Iowa when a reporter asked about the controversy.

“We have a very different opinion on how the enhanced interrogation program works and I’ve been very clear about that,” Santorum said of McCain. “And we still have that disagreement.”

Santorum also attacked the reporter who asked the question, accusing her of putting “some sort of twist” on what he said about McCain by using the word “torture” rather than the phrase “enhanced interrogation.”

Santorum officially kicked off his campaign for the White House Monday. Today Santorum toured a just-opened “Informed Choices Clinic” in West Des Moines that offers free health care services to women, including pregnancy tests and prenatal care, as well as referrals to doctors who are opposed to abortion. Santorum told reporters his work on pro-life issues when he was in congress and the U.S. Senate separates him from the “pack” of other presidential hopefuls.

“Not because they don’t check the box. I mean, I think they can all say that they’re pro-life and that’s a good thing,” Santorum said. “And I’m glad that…at least the major candidates out there are prolife, but none of them have really taken the role of leadership on those issues.”

Santorum calls himself an “authentic” and “consistent” conservative who has had the “courage” to act on controversial issues like abortion.

“It’s one thing to go in front of a pro-life group and say you’re pro-life,” Santorum said. “It’s another thing to go out and actively work as an elected official to make real changes in the culture when it comes to this issue.”

Santorum supports a ban on all abortions, with the single exception being to save the life of the mother. But Santorum would also support other efforts that don’t go as far, such as banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy or banning the use of federal tax dollars to pay for the contraceptives or women’s health exams low-income women on government-paid Medicaid get at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Listen to the entire news conference: SantorumJune7