UNITED STATES, May 7, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has tried to present himself as the ideal conservative candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, as one who would be a staunch defender of pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-family values.
However since Romney entered the Republican primary his record has been the source of much contention among pro-life advocates, who are looking for a solid leader on life and family issues, but disagree as to whether Romney fits the bill.
Romney’s Current Pro-Life Position
When Romney ran for governor in 2002 he described himself as “personally pro-life”, but promised not to change Massachusetts’ liberal abortion laws and protect “a woman’s right to choose.” As far back as his 1994 Senate race, Romney staked out a pro-abortion pro-homosexual rights position and objected to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s derisive jibe that he was “multiple choice.” Romney insisted then that he would refuse to legislate his pro-life views through government on account of an unnamed relative having died of an illegal abortion.
However for Mitt Romney, the decisive change of heart occurred shortly after the federal election on November 9, 2004, when after discussing human cloning with two researchers, he became convinced that Roe v. Wade had cheapened the sanctity of life.
Currently Romney has based his pro-life philosophy upon a “federalist approach” to dealing with abortion. Namely, he would appoint strict constitutionalist judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, and then the states would choose for themselves how to restrict abortion.
Romney first articulated this position in a July 25, 2005 Boston Globe Op-Ed column, when he announced in his decision to veto the “emergency contraception” bill that he was “firmly pro-life” and believed life begins at conception.
“But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate,” wrote Gov. Romney. “Because Massachusetts is decidedly prochoice, I have respected the state’s democratically held view. I have not attempted to impose my own views on the prochoice majority.”
However Romney’s “federalist approach” has been criticized as more of an “anti-Roe” position, rather than the position of a leader championing pro-life federal laws.
Romney again reiterated his “federalist approach” in a Feb. 10 interview with the National Journal in which he declined to go on the record to support the Human Life Amendment, a key feature of the Republican Party platform since 1980:
NJ: You would favor a constitutional amendment banning abortion with exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Is that correct?
[Romney]: What I’ve indicated is that I am pro-life, and that my hope is that the Supreme Court will give to the states over time or give to the states soon or give to the states their own ability to make their own decisions with regard to their own abortion law.
Romney continued, “My view is not to impose a single federal rule on the entire nation—a one-size-fits-all approach—but instead allow states to make their own decisions in this regard.”
Romney advisor, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), has defended Romney as willing to support the Human Life Amendment, but the contradiction between a high-profile advisor and Romney may worry pro-life leaders already on the fence in light of his previous record in Massachusetts.
Romney’s Evolving Resume on Life
“I believe people will see that as governor, when I had to examine and grapple with this difficult issue, I came down on the side of life,” Gov. Romney stated in an electronic interview with National Review Online editor Katherine Jean Lopez.
“I know in the four years I have served as governor I have learned and grown from the exposure to the thousands of good-hearted people who are working to change the culture in our country. I’m committed to promoting the culture of life. Like Ronald Reagan, and Henry Hyde, and others who became pro-life, I had this issue wrong in the past.”
For Mitt Romney, convincing pro-life supporters that he will be the most effective pro-life leader in the White House is essential to winning the Republican presidential nomination. Yet, Romney’s conversion has not gained traction among all pro-life supporters.
A number of pro-life leaders have given their individual support, although not endorsements, to Romney such as noted pro-life feminist Mary Ann Glendon, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, who signed an open letter with other pro-life leaders dated Jan. 11 defending his accomplishments, and pro-family attorney James Bopp, Jr. who serves as a pro-life advisor to the Romney campaign.
According to Marie Sturgis, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, while the Governor was not on board with them in the beginning, he seemed to have clearly changed after his 2005 Op-Ed in the Boston Globe.
“We saw a lot in depth in the area of the beginning of human life stage and that was toward the end of the term of governor,” Sturgis told LifeSiteNews.com. “There were a couple of years where we weren’t getting anywhere.”
Besides Romney’s veto of the “emergency contraception bill”, Sturgis said he fought well against embryonic stem-cell research/human cloning, and had tried to veto the legislature’s bill, offering amendments that among other things would have protected the definition of life as beginning at conception.
“He certainly is evolving, let me say that. I can’t say one way one way or the other as far as him being 100%,” added Sturgis. “Perhaps he is in the middle of this conversion process and beginning to understand life issues. I certainly could not have written the amendments better than that myself.”
Romney’s beliefs have evolved since his conversion, but his post-conversion record poses serious questions about whether those beliefs have yet deepened fully in Romney.
In 2006, Romney signed into law, “Commonwealth Care”, the state health care plan, which allocates tax dollars for “family planning” services, subsidizing abortions for poor-women. Although Romney vetoed some portions of the law, he failed to veto the anti-life portions of the health plan or its inclusion of Planned Parenthood on the advisory board, which “deeply disturbed” pro-life leaders like Sturgis.
“He ‘evolved’ to a pro-life position in 2005 and yet signed a health care bill which provides for tax-payer funded abortions in 2006?” said Dr. Jerry Zandstra of the Pro-Life Federation of Michigan. “Those who are concerned about ending legalized abortion must have serious reservations about someone who is first pro-choice, then claims a conversation to a pro-life position, and then signs a bill that uses state dollars to pay for abortions.”
It is these weaknesses and inconsistencies in Mitt Romney’s resume that weakens the effectiveness of his very recent conversion to pro-life principles that handicaps his primary campaign.
“I don’t think that his record shows he’s been an effective leader for life and family. His campaign promises now suggest that he would be, but I don’t think his past history shows that,” attorney Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel told LifeSiteNews.com.
“I think it’s a mixed history. I think when it comes to life a mixed history is a bad history. You can’t compromise on the matter of life and you certainly can’t force people to fund the destruction of human life,” Staver said, referring to the taxpayer subsidies for abortion in Romney’s Commonwealth Care.
Putting criticism of Romney’s 1994 debate aside and pro-abortion position then, Staver said he can understand Romney’s conversion experience, since he himself had a similar experience after being drastically changed by a pro-life video in 1981.
“I think in order to be confident that somebody would be a leader on a national level as a President on the issue of life or family, I would need to have a history that they were a leader not at the 11th hour, but that they’ve been a leader throughout many years of practice and experience.”