The year on the calendar may be different but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faces some of the same questions on the issue of abortion that hounded him during the 2008 version of his Republican presidential campaign.
Romney campaigned for and won election to the highest office in the liberal New England state by saying he supported abortion and that he would not change the law on abortion as the state’s governor. However, when confronted with legislation state legislators passed that would have promoted embryonic stem cell research and the destruction of human life for scientific research, Romney has said he was forced to reevaluate his position and that he ultimately came down on the side of protecting human life.
“When I ran for governor, I believed I could keep the law as it was. And I said I’d keep the law as it was,” he explained. “Then when I became governor, a piece of legislation came to my desk which would have led to the creation of new life for the purposes of destroying it. And I simply couldn’t sign it.”
“And I — I met with my staff and said, look, I’ve got to write why I have changed my view in this regard. It was one thing to talk about it philosophically, it’s another thing, as governor, to sign a piece of legislation that will take human life. I wrote that op-ed while I was governor and became pro-life and I continue to be pro- life,” Romney added.
Romney originally articulated his change of heart on abortion to Kathryn Lopez of the pro-life conservative news outlet National Review in December 2006.
Lopez: In a 1994 debate with Senator Kennedy, you said “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my Mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.” Further confusing matters, the Boston Globe reported in 1994 that “as a Mormon lay leader [you] counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life was at risk.” Governor: What is your position on abortion today? On Roe? How do you account for what is obviously a change — certainly publicly — on the issue?
Gov. Romney: My position has changed and I have acknowledged that. How that came about is that several years ago, in the course of the stem-cell-research debate I met with a pair of experts from Harvard. At one point the experts pointed out that embryonic-stem-cell research should not be a moral issue because the embryos were destroyed at 14 days. After the meeting I looked over at Beth Myers, my chief of staff, and we both had exactly the same reaction — it just hit us hard just how much the sanctity of life had been cheapened by virtue of the Roe v. Wade mentality. And from that point forward, I said to the people of Massachusetts, “I will continue to honor what I pledged to you, but I prefer to call myself pro-life.” The state of Massachusetts is a pro-choice state and when I campaigned for governor I said that I would not change the law on abortion. But I do believe that the one-size-fits-all, abortion-on-demand-for-all-nine-months decision in Roe v. Wade does not serve the country well and is another example of judges making the law instead of interpreting the Constitution. What I would like to see is the Court return the issue to the people to decide. The Republican party is and should remain the pro-life party and work to change hearts and minds and create a culture of life where every child is welcomed and protected by law and the weakest among us are protected. I understand there are people of good faith on both sides of the issue. They should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that our democratic process is the best place to handle these issues.
Although pro-life advocates are normally jubilant over abortion advocates converting to the pro-life position, Romney’s shift is seen by some pro-life advocates as political in nature — occurring around the time he started moving nationally towards a presidential run.
Depending on whether pro-life voters accept the change in position or see it skeptically, Romney has either remained committed to his pro-life views or has used the issue to get in good stead with pro-life voters.
Following the shift, Romney did veto the pro-embryonic research bill but skeptics say the legislature had the votes to override it and ultimately did so. Skeptics also point out that his state-run health care plan provides for taxpayer funded abortions, but those who say Romney is now genuinely pro-life point out that a state Supreme Court decision forced their inclusion over anyone’s objections.
Romney spoke to pro-life advocates over the weekend at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C, and told the values voters in attendance that, “We’re united in our belief in the sanctity of human life.” The question will be whether voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina believe him.