BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, January 13, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has been dogged by allegations that his shifting positions on abortion have been politically opportunistic. That perception will be bolstered by a new book that reveals Romney consulted polling data before deciding to campaign as “pro-choice” during his 1994 Senate race.
In the book Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, Ronald Scott wrote that Romney commissioned former Reagan pollster Richard Wirthlin to survey Massachusetts voters on key issues. Wirthlin showed Romney a poll indicating any candidate describing himself as “pro-life” was unelectable in the state.
Before initiating his campaign against then-incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy, Romney informed the elders of his church about his decision to run as a supporter of abortion rights. In November 1993, Romney, Wirthlin, and Scott (all Mormons) presented their case to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a courtesy. Romney, then a Mormon leader in his state, explained his would label himself personally opposed to abortion but would take no action to outlaw it, a view he later described as “effectively pro-choice.”
The meeting proved a contentious one. “I may not have burned bridges, but a few of them were singed and smoking,” Romney said of the exchange.
The Romney campaign has declined to comment on the book’s allegations.
Meanwhile, new information has come to light about the relative whose death from an illegal abortion Romney credited with making him pro-choice in that race. Ann Keenan’s brother, Loren, married Lynn Romney, Mitt’s sister, in the 1950s. Lynn Keenan died at Wyandotte General Hospital on October 7, 1963, when Mitt was just 16-years-old. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as a “criminal recent abortion.”
Sandra Nye, Keenan’s friend from Michigan State University, said, “It was all very hush-hush, because [Mitt’s father George] Romney was governor, and they really wanted this very quiet and to go away.”
The girl’s parents wrote in her obituary that, “Memorial tributes may be sent to the Planned Parenthood Association.”
In a 1994 debate against Kennedy, Romney alluded to Keenan as the inspiration for his first conversion, from pro-life to pro-abortion:
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.
He later elaborated her case “obviously makes one see that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, that you would hope it would be safe and legal.”
It would be the first of many twists-and-turns in the governor’s abortion record. The same year, his wife, Ann Romney, made a donation to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards would later say Mitt Romney “used to come to Planned Parenthood events. He asked for our endorsement.”
Kennedy would go on to defeat Romney by 17 percent of the vote in the election that saw Republicans regain control of Congress for the first time in decades.
In 2002, Romney chose to run again, this time for governor. During the campaign, he said, “On a personal basis, I don’t favor abortion. 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.”
After his election, however, he began to change his views again, telling reporters he had been influenced by the state’s debate over creating embryos for scientific research. He stated, “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.”
Not everyone was convinced, believing Romney told Massachusetts voters what they wanted to hear in order to get elected. His adviser, Mike Murphy, would tell National Review during the 2008 Republican primary race, “He’s been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly.”
After his most recent pro-life turn, Romney said Ann’s contributions to Planned Parenthood speak “for her and not for me…Her positions are not terribly relevant for my campaign.” His wife later made substantial donations to Massachusetts Citizens for Life, becoming its co-chair.
Romney says he now favors overturning Roe v. Wade. When asked during a 2007 debate if he would sign a bill banning all abortions, he replied, “I’d be delighted to sign that bill.” He has said at various times he believes “abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.”
His relationship with the pro-life movement in 2012 has at times been strained. In June he declined to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s pro-life pledge. In October, Romney told Mike Huckabee, “I’d make sure that the progress that has been made to provide for life and to protect human life is not progress that would be reversed.” Some liken that to his pro-choice position in earlier campaigns, when he said he “was personally pro-life but that I would protect a woman’s right to choose as the law existed. ”
This has led critics in both parties to question his core convictions on the issue. Republican strategist Keith Appell stated in 2007, “It’s part of Romney’s challenge: How many epiphanies have you had?”