Redefining Spineless: Mitt Romney on Abortion

Mitt Romney makes me sick, and not just because he hasn't stopped hating on my home state of Massachusetts since he shed the governor's mantle in favor of a shiny new presidential hopeful suit. I'm sorry, but the man has no integrity, and if so-called "values voters" wind up voting him into office, then we will finally have definitive proof that they do not know what the word "values" means.

A quick review of the flip-flopping—more worthy of a freshly caught fish than a man who honestly believes he has the credibility to run for president—that has characterized Romney's political career. Our story begins in 1994, during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. During a debate with staunchly pro-choice opponent Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Romney made the following statements on abortion:

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country."

"We should sustain and support [Roe v. Wade] and the right of a woman to make that choice."

"I do not impose my beliefs on other people."

"You will not see me wavering on that."

Despite arguing that he had more liberal cred on abortion (not to mention gay rights and workplace discrimination) than Ted Kennedy himself, Romney went on to lose that senate race, and took a break from Massachusetts politics for a few years. Then, in 2002, he was back, running for governor as a self-styled Republican moderate against Democratic candidate Shannon O'Brien. While debating O'Brien, he lamented the inadequacy of both the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" to describe the staggering complexity of his views on abortion, stating once again that "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard." He vowed publicly not to change any of Massachusetts' pro-choice laws during his tenure as governor. He also made clear, in his answers to a Planned Parenthood candidate questionnaire, that he supported Roe v. Wade, state funding of abortion services through Medicaid, and efforts to increase access to emergency contraception. Hmmm. Sounds like "pro-choice" is the word you're searching for, Mitt.

Or was it? Apparently, one's deeply held beliefs can change a lot in a few years, especially when one decides to run for president in a country where the rabidly intolerant constitute an important political constituency. Romney went on to become governor of Massachusetts, and in 2005, to the consternation of the authors of Planned Parenthood's candidate questionnaire, he proceeded to "impose his beliefs" on Massachusetts women, vetoing legislation that would have increased access to emergency contraception in that state (luckily, the Mass. legislature prevailed). In an op-ed in the Boston Globe published the next day, Romney helpfully informed Massachusetts residents that "I have not attempted to impose my own views on the prochoice majority," going on to clarify his views on abortion (never mind that the bill was about EC, not abortion, which, by the way, aren't the same thing): "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." But wait, I thought Romney wasn't pro-life or pro-choice?

Luckily, there's an explanation for everything. It turns out that—at least according to his top political advisor—Romney was just "faking it" with all that pro-choice stuff back in 2002 (and 1994), doing what was necessary to get elected in the abortion-loving, gay-people-accepting, Godless state of Massachussets. Well that's certainly reassuring! Of course, credulous pro-lifers willing to stand up for fakery are never hard to find, even if a few years ago you attributed your "unwavering" belief in a woman's right to choose to your own scarring personal experience of a "close family relative" dying tragically from an illegal abortion. Evelyn Reilly of the Massachusetts Family Institute was more than willing to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, telling the Boston Globe that: "I think his understanding of the beginning of human life has grown and deepened, probably as a result of the stem-cell issue." Hmm. Want to know what I think, Evelyn?

Of course, now that Romney has thrown off the ideological shackles of his pesky Massachusetts governorship, he's free to share his real views on the abortion issue. And it turns out he's definitely…(hold on while he sticks his finger in the prevailing conservative wind one last time) … pro-life! In fact, he's not just pro-life; according to his website, he is also "committed to traditional marriage and family," based on the belief that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman." Have we mentioned that "When Governor Romney has addressed life issues he has sided on life," and that "These have been his positions in Massachusetts and will be his positions as President"? That last one is particularly worth including, since Romney's word on the unwavering nature of his political positions is worth so much at this point. In the "values" section of his website (you can find it in "Issue Watch," under "Defeating the Jihadists" and "Competing with Asia," also top priorities), he dutifully quote himself in the Boston Globe, stating that "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." Confronted with video footage of the diametrically opposed statements on abortion he uttered several years earlier, Romney posted the lamest explanation ever on YouTube, essentially arguing that all of this stuff is "so 1994."

Ah, Romney! Ah, humanity! I think we can agree that this has now officially moved beyond the realm of abortion, and into the realm of integrity, pure and simple. And if all of the above doesn't constitute enough rope to hang this guy as a potential presidential candidate, then I'm definitely moving to Canada this time.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact