Romney and Abortion
"I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose."
— Mitt Romney, Massachussets Governor election debate
(Video), October 29, 2002
"Every action I have taken as governor of Massachussets has been pro-life."
— Mitt Romney, Republican Debate (Video), August 5, 2007
Mitt Romney has publicly acknowledged changing his views on abortion, from what was an "effectively pro-choice" position to a "firmly pro-life" stand. Other Republican candidates, notably Sam Brownback and John McCain, have accused Romney of not telling the truth about the details of his change of heart, which they attribute to political opportunism rather than strongly held convictions. Romney, in turn, has accused his rivals of distorting his position. See this exchange from an August 5 Republican presidential debate.
A review of the record shows that Romney has shifted his position on abortion numerous times since 1994 when he first ran for federal office as senator for Massachusetts. His August 5, 2007 claim that "every action I have taken as governor of Massachusetts" appears to be undermined by his October 15, 2005 decision to sign a bill seeking a federal waiver to expand family planning services in the state.
I am trying to develop as full a chronology as possible of Romney's gyrations on abortion. Let me know of any twists or turns I may have missed. Most recent update: December 20, 2007.
- February 2: Romney announces he is seeking Republican nomination for Massachusetts senator. Says he is "not in favor of government funding of abortion." Describes himself as "personally opposed" to abortion, but promises not to make any move that would undermine Roe versus Wade. [Boston Globe, February 3, 1994.].
- May 19: Four days after winning Republican nomination to run against Ted Kennedy for Massachusetts senator, Romney "came down more firmly in the abortion rights camp," according to Boston Herald report. In interview, Romney voices support for "morning after" pill and a federal bill protecting visitors to health clinics from anti-abortion violence..
- June 12: Mtt Romney attends a Planned Parenthood fund-raiser. His wife Ann makes a $150 contribution to the pro-Choice group, which offers abortion services, from a joint account with her husband. [Boston Globe, May 10, 2007.] UPDATED
- September 8: Romney says he would leave issue of Medicaid funding for abortion to the states. Accepts endorsement from Massachusetts Citizens for Life, an antiabortion group, according to Romney campaign official Charles Manning. [Boston Globe, September 8, 9, 10, 1994.].
- October 25: In Senate election debate in Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy accuses Romney of being "multiple choice" on abortion. See video here. Romney denies the charge, saying that he has supported abortion rights consistently since 1970 when his mother Lenore ran as a pro abortion rights candidate for the U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan. He linked his support for abortion rights to the death "many years ago" of a "dear, close family relative" following a botched illegal abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he adds. Some Michigan politicians later questioned Romney's description of his mother's political platform in 1970.
- Early July: While serving as president of organizing committee for 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney tells Salt Lake Tribune he is thinking about returning to politics in either Utah or Massachusetts. Says he does not wish to be "labeled pro-choice." A close friend, Utah developer Kem Gardner, attributes Romney's 1994 position in support of abortion rights to the fact that he was "running against Ted Kennedy in a state that was 80 per cent pro-choice and to have any chance at all, he was waffling." [Salt Lake Tribune, July 4, 2001]
- April 9: Romney says he supports substance of Supreme Court decision in Roe versus Wade and funding of abortion services through Medicaid in answers to questionnaire submitted by Planned Parenthood.
- June 13: At bioethics forum, Romney says he "in favor of stem cell research," and will "work and fight for stem cell research." [Boston Globe, June 14, 2002]
- October 29: Romney says his position on abortion has been "the same throughout my political career." Says he will "preserve and protect" abortion rights in Massachusetts. [Boston Globe, October 30, 2002] Denies accepting endorsement from Massachusetts Citizens for Life in 1994. Declines to complete Citizens for Life questionnaire. [Boston Globe, July 3, 2005.] See video here.
- September 26: Romney tells abortion rights activists that "you need someone like me in Washington," according to notes taken by a member of the National Abortion Rights Action League, or NARAL. NARAL officials interpreted this as a reference to his national political ambitions. Notes taken by NARAL officer Nicole Roos. [Interview with Kelly O'Bryan, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Political director, September 4, 2007.]
- November 9: As speculation mounts that Romney is considering running for president in 2008, the governor meets Harvard University stem cell researcher Douglas Melton. By Romney's later account, the meeting was a watershed moment in persuading him to adopt a public, antiabortion position. He says he was shocked to hear from Melton that "we kill the embryos after 14 days." Melton said that Romney "mischaracterized" his position. "We didn't discuss killing or anything related to it."[Boston Globe, December 17, 2006]
- March 8: Supports taxpayer subsidies for stem cell research, provided that certain ethical conditions are met. Watch video here.
- May 27: Says he is committed to maintaining the "status quo" in Massachusetts on abortion rights. Watch video here.
- July 25: Vetoes bill to ensure emergency contraception for rape victims, known as the morning after pill. Argues that the hormone drugs "would also terminate life after conception." In op-ed article for Boston Globe, states that he is "pro-life." Abortion rights activists accuse Romney of breaking written assurances made during the 2002 campaign. [Massachusetts Telegram and Gazette, August 9, 2005] Romney had answered "yes" in questionnaire from Planned Parenthood in 2002 on whether he would support "efforts to increase access to emergency contraception."
- October 15: Boston Globe reports that Romney has signed a bill seeking federal waiver to expand number of low-income people eligible for family planning services, including morning-after pill, over protests of anti abortion rights activists. "The guy's not coming around," said Joseph M. Scheidler, the national director of the Pro-Life Action League. The action appears to contradict Romney's June 18, 2007 claim that "I came down on the side of life" in every decision he made as governor of Massachusetts. See video here.
December 8: Romney reverses an earlier decision on the advise of his counsel and orders all hospitals in the state to make the "morning after" pill available to rape victims, over the protests of Catholic hospitals, who argue that this goes against their religious beliefs. A Boston Herald editorial says that Romney has "executed an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half on the issue of emergency contraception." UPDATED
- December: Romney contributes $15,000 to Massachusetts Citizens for Life, after denying in 2002 campaign that he had accepted the group's endorsement.[New York Times, March 11, 2007]
- February 13: Announces he is running for president.
- May 10: Romney receives Political Leadership award from Massachusetts Citizens for Life at a Mothers' Day dinner. Describes himself as a "convert" to the antiabortion cause, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. [Boston Globe, May 11, 2007.]
- June 15: Addresses National Right to Life convention. Says that even though he was "always personally opposed to abortion," he decided to support "the law as it was in place" as governor of Massachusetts. "I was wrong."
- August 5: "Virtually nothing in that ad is true," says Romney, referring to a robocall to Iowa voters by rival Republican candidate Sam Brownback Brownback had ridiculed Romney's claim to be "firmly pro-life," saying that "nothing could be further from the truth." As supporting evidence, he claimed that Romney (1) "pledged to support and uphold pro-abortion policies and passed taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts" as late as 2005; (2) his wife Ann contributed money to Planned parenthood; and (3) Romney told the National Abortion Rights Action League that "you need someone like me in Washington." See video here.
- August 21: Tells Nevada television station that states should make their own decisions on abortion rights. See video here. Statement appears to contradict an August 6 statement to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News in which he said he supported a human life amendment to the constitution assuring federal protection to unborn children. See video here.
- A columnist for the Boston Globe accuses Mitt Romney of "dishonesty" on abortion.
- Romney's own explanation for his shifting positions.
- Read more on our Issues Coverage Tracker:
The Pinocchio Test
UPDATED. The issue for the Fact Checker is not whether Romney has flip-flopped on abortion-he has publicly acknowledged changing his position-but whether he has been honest with the voters of Massachusetts and the United States. Taking into consideration all your comments, on December 20, I awarded Romney three Pinocchios for his twists and turns on abortion. See an updated post here.(About our rating scale.)
| September 21, 2007; 9:15 AM ET
Categories: 3 Pinocchios, Candidate Watch, Social Issues
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