Romney’s free ride on abortion

One of campaign 2008′s mysteries is Mitt Romney’s free ride from anti-abortion advocates. His anti-abortion declarations are eloquent, as is everything else the silver-tongued former Massachusetts governor utters. But, once again, his rhetoric is at war with his record.

“Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion,” Romney said while challenging Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1994 re-election. Since then, Romney and his family decided “we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter.” Romney reaffirmed his abortion-rights stance in his 2002 gubernatorial bid.

Romney contends he became anti-abortion in November 2004 after discussing embryonic stem cells with Harvard researcher Douglas Melton. While U.S. embryos truly are microscopic Americans, a skeptic might question Romney’s statement that chatting with a biologist reversed his position, rooted as it was in a loved one’s bloody death.

Romney’s metamorphosis would seem more sincere than convenient if his policies matched his perspective. Romney said last Dec. 16 on “Meet the Press”: “Every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as a governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life.” Nevertheless:

– On July 25, 2005, Romney rejected a law that required medical centers to provide rape victims “morning after” emergency-contraception pills. The legislature overrode his veto. That December, the Public Health Department ruled that private hospitals with moral or religious objections could overlook the law. Romney then overturned that decision, as a top legal adviser recommended. “I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said Dec. 8, 2005.

“Flip, flop, flip,” the Boston Herald opined the next day. “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.”

“The appropriate response for Catholic hospitals is non-compliance,” the Catholic Action League’s C.J. Doyle told the Associated Press. “Otherwise, they would be compromising their religious integrity and Catholic identity.”

– Romney signed an October 2005 measure to qualify some 88,000 low-income residents for family-planning services, including abortion counseling and “morning after” pills. “We have no objection to the Legislature’s directive that we seek a waiver to expand the eligible population to women with a slightly higher income,” Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom remarked.

– Section 16M of Romney’s health-insurance mandate states, “There shall be a MassHealth payment policy advisory board” with 14 members of doctor and hospital groups and “one member appointed by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts,” the state’s leading voice for abortion on demand and without apology.

“Romney did not object to Section 16M, even though he certainly could have,” Massachusetts Pro-Life Federation President Jerry Zandstra tells me. In fact, on April 12, 2006, he line-item-vetoed eight provisions, six of which the legislature overrode. While Romney vetoed broader Medicaid dental benefits, he neither rejected Planned Parenthood’s place at the table nor insisted on including an anti-abortion representative. Romney and his wife attended a June 1994 Planned Parenthood fund-raiser. Ann Romney gave the organization $150.

– Romney signed this bill, although it did not prohibit subsidies of medically unnecessary abortions. A Massachusetts court ordered taxpayer funding of clinically vital, but not universal, abortions. Yet, the law unconditionally offers abortions for a $50 co-payment.

“The law exists under Romney’s signature, and the end result is state-funded abortions, guided by the butchering hands of Planned Parenthood,” says Zandstra.

– MassDevelopment, an agency Romney’s appointees reportedly controlled, voted Nov. 8, 2006, for a $5 million tax-exempt bond to build a 10,000-square-foot Planned Parenthood clinic in Worcester.

“He did not know about this loan,” Fehrnstrom said in last Dec. 2′s Boston Globe. How strange. Ranch Kimball, Romney’s secretary of economic development, chaired MassDevelopment. Romney could have opposed this bond until Jan. 1, 2007, but did not.

Romney’s late-term anti-abortionism “was more than just a flip-flop,” said Planned Parenthood’s Angus McQuilken. “This was an extreme makeover.”

Just as Romney’s $983 million in higher levies and fees mock his assertion about not having raised taxes, abortion is yet another area where a grand canyon separates Romney’s words and deeds.

(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)

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