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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/20/2007

Romney's 'Flip, Flop, Flip'

By Michael Dobbs


Romney at Planned Parenthood fund-raiser, June 12, 1994.

"Every piece of legislation which came to my desk [as] governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life."


--Mitt Romney, NBC "Meet the Press", December 16, 2007.


It is becoming difficult for Mitt Romney to keep track of his twists and turns on the abortion issue. The photograph above shows Romney back in June 1994 during his first big political campaign, running against Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. It was taken at a fund-raiser for the pro-abortion rights group, Planned Parenthood, in Cohasset, Mass. The woman with her back to Romney is Nicki Nichols Gamble, former president of the Massachusetts branch of Planned Parenthood, which accepted a $150 contribution from Romney's wife Ann (in a white jacket to Romney's right.)


The "pro-choice" candidate for senator, and later governor, of Massachusetts is now the "pro-life" candidate for president of the United States. His record as governor is controversial, however. Interviewed by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Romney claimed that he took a "pro-life" position on "every piece of legislation" that came before him. But that is untrue, at least by his present definition of what constitutes "life."


The Facts

Romney announced his conversion to "pro-life" views in an editorial in the Boston Globe on July 25, 2005, the day after vetoing a bill expanding access to the so-called "morning after" pill, which required that it be made available to rape victims. See my detailed and updated chronology here. Abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood expressed shock at the governor's change of heart, after he had personally signed a pledge to support increased access to the "morning after" pill. "Pro-Life" groups hailed the decision.

That was not the end of the story, however. The controversy over "emergency contraception" continued to haunt Romney. In October 2005, another bill came to his desk, seeking a federal waiver to expand the number of Massachusetts citizens eligible for family planning services, including the "morning after" pill. Romney signed that bill over the objections of his new anti-abortion allies. On this occasion, he was applauded by "pro-choice" advocates.

The issue came up yet again in December 2005. After weeks of agonizing, Romney instructed all hospitals in the state to comply with the terms of the emergency contraception law, and make the morning-after pill available to rape victims. He acted on the advice of his legal counsel, over the objections of half a dozen Catholic hospitals, which had previously refused to provide emergency contraception on the grounds that it conflicted with their religious views.

"Flip,flop,flip," editorialized the Boston Herald, on December 9, 2005. "Yes, Gov. Mitt Romney has now executed an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half on the issue of emergency contraception."

Views on the acceptability of the "morning after" pill vary greatly, depending on exactly how you define "life." Many "pro-life" advocates, including Romney, take the view that life begins at the moment when a female egg is fertilized by the male sperm. They are opposed to the "morning after" pill, because it can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. "Pro-choice" groups argue that life begins much later.

Romney's gyrations on abortion have upset both sides. "For Mitt Romney, this has been not just a flip-flop, but an extreme makeover," said Angus McQuilken, vice president for public affairs with the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. "Where he stands on any issue is always a moving target."

"I don't see how he can sign bills like that and say with a straight face that he is taking a pro-life position," said Joseph M. Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League, which is opposed to all forms of abortion. "There's no way we can accept that."

.

UPDATE THURSDAY 11:30 A.M.: I just spoke with Nichols Gamble, the Planned Parenthood official who accepted the $150 cheque from the Romneys in June 1994. She says she had no reason to believe at the time that Romney was "not 100 percent behind the pro-choice public policy position." She now thinks that Romney "tried to have it both ways and every way to Sunday" on abortion, depending on what political office he was seeking.

The Pinocchio Test

Romney has changed his position so often on abortion that he lacks much credibility on this one. The Romney campaign did not respond to a e-mailed request to clarify the governor's position, so he loses the argument by default on this occasion. Three Pinocchios.

(About our rating scale.)


By Michael Dobbs  | December 20, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues  
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