Mitt Romney on Abortion
Former Republican Governor (MA)
In October 2002, campaigning for governorship of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney said he would “preserve and protect” a woman’s right to choose. He now describes himself as opposing abortion.
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 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.
It’s true that both Huckabee and Romney oppose abortion--now. But Huckabee was pro-life while he was governor. Romney, not so much. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s Romney at a September debate in Iowa: “I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I’ve said that time and time again. I’ve changed my position.“
We don’t begrudge Romney the right to change his mind, and he’s been open about the fact that his position has changed. But many Iowa voters may still be unaware of that, and this ad implies that there’s no difference between these two candidates on abortion. That’s a stretch.
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: 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.
(BEGIN AUDIO)Q: Do you stand by that attack?
ANNOUNCER: Mitt Romney is telling Iowans that he is firmly pro-life. Nothing could be further from the truth. As late as 2005, Mitt Romney pledged to support and uphold pro-abortion policies and pass taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts. His wife, Ann, has contributed money to Planned Parenthood. Mitt told the National Abortion Rights Action League that, “You need someone like me in Washington.“
BROWNBACK: I certainly do. There’s one word that describes that ad, and it’s ”truthful.“ That’s a truthful ad. And that’s what campaigns are about: for getting the truth out, expressing the differences between candidates.
Q: Is everything in that ad true?
ROMNEY: Virtually nothing in that ad is true. I am pro-life. That’s the truth. Every action I’ve taken as governor of Massachusetts has been pro-life.
ROMNEY: Abortion is a very difficult decision. We’re involved in the lives of two people: a mom and an unborn child. I’ve come down on the side of saying I’m in favor of life. The best way you can learn about someone is not by asking their opponent, but ask them, “What do you believe, and what’s your view?” And I am pro-life. And virtually every part of that ad is inaccurate. I’m pro-life. My positions are pro-life.
BROWNBACK: You can go on YouTube and see the governor speaking himself about where he is on this position in 1994.
ROMNEY: Look, I was pro-choice. I am pro-life. You can go back to YouTube and look at what I said in 1994. I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. I changed my position. And I get tired of people that are holier-than-thou because they’ve been pro-life longer than I have. But I’m proud of the fact.
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.
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.
“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.”
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: Probably from a political standpoint and a personal standpoint, the greatest mistake was when I first ran for office, being deeply opposed to abortion but saying, “I support the current law,” which was pro-choice and effectively a pro-choice position. That was just wrong. And when I became a governor and faced a life-and-death decision as a governor, I came down on the side of life. That was a mistake before that.
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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