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Pro-Choice Faker Romney Eggs on Abortion Foes

November 7, 2011

Back in 2005, Republican strategist and Mitt Romney adviser Michael Murphy created quite a stir when he declared of the Massachusetts Governor, "He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly." Over the last few weeks, Romney has once again confirmed what might be called Murphy's Law. The one-time Planned Parenthood donor who refused to sign the draconian Susan B. Anthony pledge in June last week declared he would eliminate federal Title X funding providing health care services for five million American women. And the same man who proclaimed in Massachusetts "I sustain and support" Roe v. Wade and "the right of a woman to make that choice" now "absolutely" backs constitutional amendments which outlaw abortion by bestowing "personhood" on fertilized eggs.
As recent exposes by the New York Times and the Washington Post revealed, Romney's gymnastic reversals on women's reproductive rights are even more acrobatic than previously documented. As the Times reported, as a Mormon bishop and Boston-area "stake president," Romney warned a mother of four with a dangerous blood clot not to terminate her pregnancy as her doctors advised. "The incident made news years later," the Times noted, "when Mr. Romney ran for United States Senate as a supporter of abortion rights -- a position he has since abandoned." The Washington Post explained that Romney position during his 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign:

Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state's abortion laws.
Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion -- that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP's hard-line opposition to abortion.
He would be a "good voice in the party" for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be "widely written about," he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
"You need someone like me in Washington," several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.

As it turned out, not so much.

Romney's recent appearance with Mike Huckabee is just the latest confirmation. In light of the "personhood" amendment Mississippi voters will decide this week, Huckabee got the answer he wanted to hear from Mitt Romney:

"Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?" Huckabee asked.
"Absolutely," Romney replied.

Sadly, Mitt Romney the Right-to-Life crusader of 2011 wouldn't recognize the Mitt Romney of 1994 or 2002 who completed a NARAL questionnaire by promising:

I respect and will protect a woman's right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government's. The truth is no candidate in the governor's race in either party would deny women abortion rights. So let's end an argument that does not exist and stop these cynical and divisive attacks that are made only for political gain.

To establish his pro-choice bona fides, Romney went so far as to deploy his wife and mother as human shields. Romney reissued the statement on abortion his mother first released during her own 1970 Senate run. And during a 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, Romney opened up about the origin of his pro-choice views:

"Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that."

As Romney's wife Ann explained during his 2002 race for governor, Massachusetts voters need not worry about moderate Mitt protecting the right to choose:

ANN ROMNEY: I think women also recognize that they want someone who is going to manage the state well. I think they may be more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine. But the perception is that he won't be. That's an incorrect perception.
MITT ROMNEY: So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes.

(Just five years later, Ann Romney announced that Mitt "has always personally been pro-life." She added that "he did change his mind. It took courage" and claimed, "hasn't changed his position on anything except choice.")
Back in the 1990's and early 2000'w, Romney hoped to appease progressive voters in Massachusetts wary of his pro-life Mormon past by repeatedly declaring "I believe women should have the right to make their own choice." As ABC News first reported, Romney and his wife went so far as to attend a Planned Parenthood fundraising house party in 1994 and wrote that $150 check to the group. Running for governor in April 2002, Romney put his mouth where his money was in a questionnaire submitted to the organization:

Do you support the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade? YES
Do you support state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women? YES
In 1998 the FDA approved the first packaging of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill." Emergency contraception is a high dose combination of oral contraceptives that if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can safely prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Do you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception? YES

(Last week, Romney announced he would not only end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but eliminate all funding for the Title X law signed by Richard Nixon in 1970. As Ruth Marcus documented, clinics funded by Title X serve five million women annually, and "prevent nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies annually. The institute says these pregnancies would otherwise result in 433,000 unintended births and 406,000 abortions." In addition, each year Title X performs "2.2 million Pap smears, 2.3 million breast exams, [and] nearly 6 million tests for sexually transmitted infections.")
Ultimately, Romney was successful in defusing the issue in his 2002 race against Democrat Shannon O'Brien by promising to avoid changing the status quo in the Commonwealth:
"I promised that if elected, I'd call a truce - a moratorium, if you will...I vowed to veto any legislation that sought to change the existing rules...I fully respect and will fully protect a woman's right to choose."
Those deceptive contortions on reproductive rights may have worked with socially liberal, suburban voters in 2002, but they offered a recipe for disaster with the Christian Coalition's so-called "values-voters" in the 2008 GOP primaries. Predictably, Romney began his sharp right turn. By the fall of 2005, Romney flip-flopped again on abortion, claiming that his position has "evolved" and that "my political philosophy is pro-life." By the spring of 2006, his spokeswoman Julie Teer laid out Romney's position of a proposed South Dakota abortion ban:

"If Gov. Romney were the governor of South Dakota he would sign it. The governor believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people."

And so it goes. Last month, the New Republic's Timothy Noah examined Mitt Romney's latest book to see "is there anything Mitt Romney believes in?" The answer won't surprise you. Just weeks ago, conservative columnist George Will similarly concluded, "Romney has shown a certain versatility of conviction over the years." Nowhere is Mitt Romney's opportunistic lack of conviction more on display than on abortion and women's reproductive rights. Despite his subsequent efforts to walk it back, Michael Murphy was right about Romney's just-in-time conversion for the 2008 GOP presidential primaries. As President, the Massachusetts pro-choice faker would make the right-wing's harshest anti-abortion wish list the law of the land.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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