Mitt Romney on Abortion
Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent
ROMNEY: In the previous debate, we wondered why in the world did contraception come up? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience. I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama. Most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable. And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them.
ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their part. Likewise, there's a provision in Massachusetts General Law that says people don't have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don't have to provide that.
GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor's office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn't possible under Massachusetts law. When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny.
ROMNEY: First, in RomneyCare, there's no mention of abortion whatsoever. The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided that all times that there was any subsidy of health care in Massachusetts that one received abortion care. That was not done by the legislature; I would have vetoed such a thing. That was done by the courts. #2, it's true, somewhere in that bill of ours, 70 pages, there's the mention of the words "Planned Parenthood," but it describes payment structures.
SANTORUM: You do not specifically mention that abortion is not covered. You can't say: Oh, gee, surprise, the court made us cover abortions. He knew very well that the court would make him cover abortions.
ROMNEY: I appointed probably 50 or 60 judges--at the trial court level, mostly, the great majority. These were former prosecutors; 80% of them former prosecutors. We don't have a litmus test for appointing judges--asking them if they're pro-life or not pro-life. These were people going after crimes and the like. I am pro-life. And the Massachusetts Citizens for Life and several other family-oriented groups wrote a letter two weeks ago and said they'd watched my record, that I was an avidly pro-life governor. I am a pro-life governor; I am a pro-life individual. Is there any possibility that I've ever made a mistake in that regard, I didn't see something that I should have seen? Possibly. But you can count on me, as president, to pursue a policy that protects the life of unborn, whether here in this country or overseas. And I'll reverse the policies of this president.
The extent of Romney's shift became clear in July 2005 when he vetoed a bill for the morning-after pill and to require hospitals to make it available to rape victims.
Romney paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. "As your bishop," she said he told her, "my concern is with the child."
Romney would later contend that he couldn't recall the incident, saying, "I don't have any memory of what she is referring to, although I certainly can't say it could not have been me." Romney acknowledged having counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in exceptional cases, in accordance with church rules.
Romney asserted that his family had supported a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion ever since the October 1963 death of his brother-in-law's sister, Ann Hartman Keenan, from complication following an illegal abortion.
His answers to an April 2002 questionnaire from the local NARAL chapter were similarly unequivocal. Romney said he would oppose attempts to change state laws, either by adding new restrictions on abortion or by easing existing ones. He expressed support for Medicaid finding for the procedure, efforts to expand access to emergency contraception, and the restoration of state funding for family-planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs. He also said he supported comprehensive sex education in public schools and would oppose "'abstinence-only' sexuality education programs." "The truth is, no candidate in the governor's race in either party would deny women abortion rights," he wrote. "So let's end an argument that does not exist."
SANTORUM: No, let's be clear. We're talking about the 10th Amendment and the right of states to act.
Q: Gov. Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?
ROMNEY: I can't imagine a state banning contraception. I can't imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were a governor of a state or a state legislature, I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception.
SANTORUM: The Supreme Court created through a penumbra of rights a new right to privacy that was not in the Constitution. I believe it should be overturned.
His abrupt shift from supporting abortion and reproductive rights to opposing them seemed to parallel the marriage of his sons and the difficulties some of them had conceiving children. Three resorted to in vitro fertilization (IVF) processes that necessarily generate extra embryos that must eventually be disposed of in some way. Romney became more familiar with the IVF processes, he switched from supporting a woman's right to choose, to outright opposition for all manner of elective abortion procedures, including the so-called morning-after treatments he once held out as a panacea. Essentially, the embryos eliminated by morning-after treatments are in the same stage of development as unused fertilized eggs created for IVF procedures.
He tightened his views on other reproductive issues as well. Instead of preaching a variety of measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies, he became more vocal about "abstinence" to the point that some assumed (incorrectly) that it was the only approach to birth control that he endorsed. In fact, his views on contraception--condoms, birth control pills, diaphragms, intrauterine, and other similar devices--have remained consistent with his church's policies, which treat such matters as issues of personal choice.
SANTORUM: I think an issue should be looking at the authenticity of that candidate and looking at their record over time and what they fought for. You can look at my record. A lot of folks run for president as pro-life and then that issue gets shoved to the back burner. The issue of pro-life, and the dignity of people at the end of life, those issues will be top priority issues for me to make sure that all life is respected and held with dignity.
ROMNEY: People have had a chance to look at my record and look what I've said. I believe people understand that I'm firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.
The McCain campaign, sensing an opportunity to stop Romney even before he could get launched, stoked the story line that Romney was a flip-flopper. A video of Romney from 1994 surfaced that showed him defending abortion rights. The nascent Romney campaign was overwhelmed by the barrage of criticism.
A: I was always personally opposed to abortion, as I think almost everyone in this nation is. And the question for me was, what is the role of government? And it was quite theoretical and philosophical to consider what the role of government should be in this regard, and I felt that the Supreme Court had spoken and that government shouldn’t be involved and let people make their own decision. That all made a lot of sense to me. Then I became governor and the theoretical became reality. A bill came to my desk which related to the preservation of life. I recognized that I simply could not be part of an effort that would cause the destruction of human lift. And I didn’t hide from that change of heart. I recognize it’s a change. Every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as the governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life.
A: I do. I believe from a political perspective that life begins at conception. I don’t pretend to know, if you will, from a theological standpoint when life begins. I’d committed to the people of Massachusetts that I would not change the laws one way or the other, and I honored that commitment. But each law that was brought to my desk attempted to expand abortion rights and, in each case, I vetoed that effort. I also promoted abstinence education in our schools. I vetoed an effort, for instance, to give young women a morning after pill who did not have prescriptions. So I took action to preserve the sanctity of life. But I did not violate my word, of course.
A: They would be like the consequences associated with the bill relating to partial birth abortion which does not punish the woman. No one I know of is calling for punishing the woman. In the case of a doctor, the kinds of penalties would be potentially losing a license or having some other kind of restriction. In the case of partial birth abortion, as I recall, the penalty is a possible prison term not to exceed two years. But generally the medical profession would immediately follow the law. That’s not going to be an issue. And there would be a recognition that one’s license was at risk if one violated the law.
A: I’d love to have an America that didn’t have abortion. But that’s not what the American people [want] right now. And so I’d like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and allow the states to put in place pro-life legislation. I recognize that for many people, that is considered an act of murder, to have an abortion. It is without question the taking of a human life. And I believe that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of the human life. But we have two lives involved here--a mom, an unborn child. We have to have concern for both lives & show the expression of our compassion & our consideration and work to change hearts & minds, and that’s the way in my view we’ll ultimately have a society without abortion.
Governor Romney changed his mind on abortion. He freely admits it. Ordinary citizens change their minds, and their positions evolve in private. For public figures, however, every video clip and interview is posted somewhere in cyberspace.
Q: Yes, that’s right. But when I became governor I laid out in my view that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of life. And you know what? I’m following in some pretty good footsteps. It’s exactly what Ronald Reagan did. As governor, he was adamantly pro-choice. He became pro-life as he experienced life. And the same thing happened with George H. W. Bush.
BROWNBACK: It would be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom.
GILMORE: Yes, it was wrongly decided.
HUCKABEE: Most certainly.
McCAIN: A repeal.
GIULIANI: It would be OK to repeal.
TANCREDO: After 40 million dead because we have aborted them in this country, that would be the greatest day in this country’s history when that, in fact, is overturned.
I’ve always been personally pro-life, but for me, it was a great question about whether or not government should intrude in that decision. And when I ran for office, I said I’d protect the law as it was, which is effectively a pro-choice position.
A: About two years ago, when we were studying cloning in our state, I said, look, we have gone too far. It’s a “brave new world” mentality that Roe v. Wade has given us, and I changed my mind. I took the same course that Ronald Reagan took, and I said I was wrong and changed my mind and said I’m pro-life. And I’m proud of that, and I won’t apologize to anybody for becoming pro-life.
Q: Some people are going to see those changes of mind as awfully politically convenient.
A: When I ran for the first time, I said I was personally pro-life but that I would protect a woman’s right to choose as the law existed. Two years ago, as a result of the debate we had, the conclusion I reached was that cloning and creating new embryos was wrong, and that we should, therefore, allow our state to become a pro-life state. I believe states should have the right to make this decision, and that’s a position I indicated in an op-ed in the Boston Globe 2 years ago.
“In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead--to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited,” Romney wrote in an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Boston Globe. He also said he believes each state should decide whether to allow abortion, rather than having the “one size fits all” precedent of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.
“On a personal basis, I don’t favor abortion,” he said. “However, as governor of the commonwealth, I will protect a woman’s right to choose under the laws of the country and the commonwealth. That’s the same position I’ve had for many years.”
But for Romney it was a seminal day, triggering what he describes as an awakening on "life" issues after he had spent his entire political career espousing very different views. In the official account of Romney's rebirth as a social conservative, the meeting with Melton would become the Genesis story. Romney came out strongly against the cloning technique, saying that the method breached an "ethical boundary." He vowed to press for legislation to criminalize the work. Romney's opposition stunned scientists, lawmakers, and observers because of his past statements endorsing, in general terms, embryonic stem cell research. His wife Ann had publicly expressed hope that stem cells would hold a cure for her multiple sclerosis.
A: I have the same position. From a legal standpoint, I would outlaw cloning to create new stem cells and I would outlaw embryo farming. I would allow, on a private basis, the use of surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization. In terms of funding, I think the best source of our funding application should be in what are known as alternative methods. And this just recent. I’ve been fighting for this for some time. But this recently saw a major breakthrough with direct reprogramming of human adult cells to become stem cells that can be very potent cells applied to help cure disease and serious conditions.
A: It certainly will. Altered nuclear transfer, I think, is perhaps the best source.
A: Altered nuclear transfer creates embryo-like cells that can be used for stem cell research. In my view, that’s the most promising source. I have a deep concern about curing disease. I have a wife that has a serious disease that could be affected by stem cell research and others. But I will not create new embryos through cloning or through embryo farming, because that will be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.
Q: And you won’t take any from these fertility clinics to use either?
A: It’s fine for that to be allowed, to be legal. I won’t use our government funds for that. Instead, I want our governments to be used on altered nuclear transfer.
The Harvard Stem Cell Institute was seeking legal protection for an embryo production line for the purpose of creating and harvesting stem cells, and Romney refused his support. He said, “Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experimentation or destruction.”
Romney’s views would permit for research the use of embryos about to be destroyed by their parents; this puts him at odds with President Bush’s more restrictive position. Romney has never supported state-funded research on embryonic stem cells, and is a believer in the efficacy of alternative methods of producing stem cells.
A: Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are. That’s not where America is today. Where America is, is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.
A: Yes. I would like to see each state be able to make its own decision regarding abortion rather than have a one-size-fits-all blanket pronouncement by the Supreme Court.
Q: Would you have a “litmus test” of any sort when it came to nominees for the Supreme Court?
A: I think we’d all like to apply a litmus test. Each of us would like to say, “Here are all the decisions that are going to come up. How will you vote?” But I don’t think that’s the process that you’re going to see employed by me or, frankly, by others as well. Doing it that way would make it very difficult for the nominee to be confirmed. There will not be a litmus test. Instead, there will be a philosophical test, which is: “Is this a person who follows the law, who abides by the Constitution, who will strictly construe the Constitution as intended, or is this a person who looks to expand upon the Constitution to ‘write’ laws without the benefit of legislation?”
“I am pro-life,” Romney told me pointedly. He went on to explain how his campaigns have provided fodder for his 2008 opponents. “In my 1994 debate with Senator Kennedy he said that I was ‘multiple choice’ for which he got a good laugh because I would not say I was pro-choice. I said what I would do if I were elected senator, the same thing I said when I was running for governor. As governor, I indicated that I would not change the law as it related to abortion. I would keep it the same. I have had roughly four provisions that have reached my desk which would have changed the laws as they relate to abortion, all of which would have expanded abortion rights. I vetoed each of those. My record as governor has been very clearly a pro-life record.“
In May, Romney vetoed legislation to expand stem cell research because it allowed the cloning of human embryos for use in stem cell experiments--a practice Romney said amounts to creating life in order to destroy it. The Legislature overrode the veto.
His veto of the emergency contraception measure is also likely to be overridden. That bill requires hospital emergency room doctors to offer the medication to rape victims, and would make it available without prescription from pharmacies.
Romney is on a list of possible contenders for the White House in 2008. Others include Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Sam Brownback of Kansas and George Allen of Virginia, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
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Third Party Candidates:
Mayor Rocky Anderson(J)