The National Catholic Register is out today with a lengthy profile of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and whether he can truly be considered pro-life on the issue of abortion. The question haunts him now as it did in the 2008 presidential election.
The fact that Romney is unable to shake the question of the sincerity of his pro-life beliefs is a twofold problem.
First, it’s a problem for Romney that, no matter what he does, he is unable to convince a good portion of the majority of Republican voters in early battleground states like Iowa ad South Carolina who are pro-life, that he is one of them. There are conservative Republican voters who are resolute in their decision not to support Romney’s candidacy and it makes it so Romney will have to rely on the losing strategy that failed to earn him the nomination in 2008 — winning Michigan and early western states with heavy Mormon populations and attempting to win New Hampshire. If Romney is unable to convince voters in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida that he is pro-life enough, the second time may not be a charm.
The second problem is for the pro-life movement — that some pro-life people are so skeptical of converts. The pro-life community can engage in a good faith debate over whether Romney’s conversion on abortion is political or authentic but the debate makes it so any pro-abortion politician who converts to the pro-life perspective will likely face scrutiny over whether the decision is made for political gain or is heartfelt. That makes it tough for the movement to win converts if potential converts know they will face such strong skepticism that they will still not be viewed as friends by pro-life voters.
Romney didn’t do himself any favors when he declined the opportunity to sign a pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List, as other Republican presidential candidates like Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty did, committing to basic pro-life principles like appointing good judges, opposing taxpayer funding of abortions and Planned Parenthood.
Romney said he supports the principles of the pledge but worried about the consequences — that public hospitals that happen to perform even a handful of abortions (and potentially to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest) would lose federal funding. SBA responded that publicly-funded hospitals are not on the de-funding target list — that the legislation in question applies to Planned Parenthood receiving family planning funds.
Still, that left headlines with the message that Romney refused to sign a pro-life pledge and exacerbated the headaches he has when it comes to convincing pro-life advocates to support him.
The NCR article features both skeptics and believers when it comes to Romney’s views and it starts with the pledge question.
Romney has his pro-life supporters: people like National Right to Life legal counsel James Bopp and Dr. Jack Willke, considered the father of the modern pro-life movement, endorsed him in 2008. And his home state pro-life group, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, considers his conversion authentic — giving Romney its Political Leadership Award in 2007. Jordan Sekulow of the ACLJ backed Romney as well.