Romney’s Blunt problem with the pro-life movement
March 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - I have received numerous e-mails over the last 36 hours asking if Mitt Romney really flip-flopped on his support of the Blunt Amendment, a motion to re-establish employers’ religious freedom over health insurance coverage. He did not, despite frantic coverage of his answer to a confusingly worded question from an Ohio reporter. But his reply signals that pro-lifers have a far deeper problem with the Republican presidential hopeful: he’s disengaged from our issues, dismissive of our concerns, and disinclined to give us the time of day.
The Blunt amendment controversy can be attributed to another case of media malpractice. Ohio News Network (ONN)  reporter Jim Heath told Romney, “The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio, is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning, or allowing employers to ban, providing female contraception.” The question meandered a bit longer before Romney replied, “I’m not for the bill. But look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, a husband and a wife, I’m not going there.”
The motion’s sponsor, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO, defended Romney, saying, “The question was about as confusing and disjointed as you could be.” There is no “Blunt-Rubio” bill – they are two entirely different measures, neither of which conforms to the dominant media template of “banning” female contraception, something no presidential candidate has suggested. Romney has publicly, admirably supported religious liberties on this issue.
His problem is perhaps best conveyed by a headline in the hard-Left magazine Mother Jones: “Romney Didn’t Know What the Blunt Amendment Was.”
“Democrats are accusing Romney of another characteristic flip-flop, but that’s not really what happened here,” wrote Adam Serwer. “Either this whole ‘war on religion’ rhetoric is entirely overblown, or Romney just doesn’t care enough to be minimally conscious of what’s happening on the front lines.”
That is precisely the issue. For advocates of religious liberty, the First Amendment, and protecting the unborn, there has been no issue as pressing as overturning the HHS mandate. These two measures (the Blunt and Rubio amendments), the only pending legislative remedies, are known to virtually everyone in our movement. Dr. Richard Land, Dr. Albert Mohler, the USCCB, and legions of our readers in the United States are familiar with both pieces of legislation by name. Rick Santorum surely is, as well. Even if asked such a misleading question as Jim Heath’s, they would have understood what was being discussed.
Mitt Romney did not. Had Heath butchered a question about the capital gains tax or R&D credits, Romney would have undoubtedly caught the drift of his inquiry. But when it came to the First Amendment’s protection of religion, he got lost and needlessly embarrassed himself.
The fact that he was not conversant with these measures is symptomatic of his candidacy’s wide, broad, deep, and well-cultivated estrangement from the pro-life movement.
In a nutshell, Romney campaigns as though we did not exist.
Social issues rarely if ever pass his lips unbidden. He alone skipped pro-life debates hosted in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. In bypassing our events, he either takes our votes for granted or has written them off.
If he feels he can win without the pro-life, pro-family movement, he will conclude that he can govern without the pro-life, pro-family movement.
He has signaled his intention to do as much by refusing to sign the pro-life pledge, drawn up by the Susan B. Anthony List, “to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions” and the federal bench. Do pro-lifers believe they will play as big a role in a Romney administration as they would in a Santorum, Gingrich, or Paul administration?
In politics, personnel is policy. If pro-life conservatives are not present when major decisions are about to be made in a Romney administration, their concerns will be ignored.
Romney’s record is not especially reassuring. He was not known for surrounding himself with pro-life advocates, nor appointing strict constructionist judges.
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Romney has said he believes Roe v. Wade was “improperly decided,” but the twists and u-turns in his circuitous route from pro-life to pro-choice to pro-life have sometimes been determined by poll results rather than personal conviction. He has been credibly accused of forcing Catholic hospitals to distribute the “Plan B” morning-after pill based on his private counsel’s advise, even when liberal officials disagreed with that conclusion.
Pro-life leaders around the country maintain their concern at his diffidence. And every so often, one of Romney’s supporters jumps out of the woodwork to heighten their sense of unease.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecil Richards said last year of Romney, “He used to come to Planned Parenthood events. He asked for our endorsement.”
David Nierenberg, a national Romney 2012 finance chair and major fundraiser, describes himself as a “proper New York Jewish liberal Democrat” who supports Planned Parenthood. He gave $225,0000 to the Washington state Democratic Party to support pro-abortion Governor Christine Gregoire, who recently signed the same-sex “marriage” bill. Nirenberg told the media he backed Romney to save the nation from “a lot of angry people running for president this year,” who do not focus on “fundamentals” like creating a “muscular” foreign policy. (It would be difficult to conceive of a more activist foreign policy than that of Rick Santorum, who promised to launch “airstrikes” against Iran.)
In 2003, Romney endorsed Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. Anderson’s history as a former board member of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and former president of the state chapter of the ACLU did not stop Romney from calling him “a strong leader and a great man.”
If Romney seeks to staunch doubts over his commitment to the right to life, he must ask for our support – and provide concrete reasons we should offer it.
He could begin by appointing someone to keep him engaged on the issues most vital to us. He proved this week he is incapable of doing so on his own.
1. In the interest of full disclosure, this author’s journalism has been featured on the Ohio News Network.