Mitt Romney’s position on abortion rights has not always been very clear and very much like his campaign, his opinion seems to be moving more center.
This is not a criticism of the Romney campaign. Similar to many candidates before him, Romney has campaigned strong right to overcome the similarities of his own healthcare bill in Massachusetts and win the primary election. Now that his candidacy is of national concern, Romney will naturally want to appear more moderate to win the swing states.
So what about abortion?
People on both sides of the issue find the President’s stance on abortion to be important, so I found it interesting to a very brief timeline of Mitt Romney’s abortion stance.
Romney on Planned Parenthood, March 19, 2012:
Romney declared in an interview during the primaries that he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood. The right wing has repeatedly opposed Planned Parenthood for their abortion practices despite federal funds supporting those abortion practices being illegal. As far as I can tell, Romney has been careful to proclaim defunding of Planned Parenthood without ever using the word “abortion.”
Romney’s Campaign Spokesperson Responds to Akins Scandal, Aug. 20, 2012:
Andrea Saul remarked in a brief statement, “…a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape"
Republican National Convention, Aug. 27-29, 2012:
RNC adds a call for a constitutional amendment making abortion illegal with no language providing legality to victims of rape or dangerous situations for the mother, etc.
Romney Quoted from “Meet the Press”, Sept. 9, 2012:
When asked about Roe v. Wade (a Supreme Court decision banning states from creating laws that would make abortion in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy illegal), Romney said: "And I believe that people of good conscience have chosen different paths in this regard. But I am pro-life and will intend, if I'm president of the United States, to encourage pro-life policies."
He also said, “Well, I don't actually make the decision the Supreme Court makes and so they'll have to make their own decision. But, for instance, I'll reverse the president's decision on using U.S. funds to pay for abortion outside this country. I don't think also the taxpayers here should have to pay for abortion in this country…I hope to appoint justices for the Supreme Court that will follow the law and the constitution. And it would be my preference that they reverse Roe V. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue.”
Romney Reported as Having Changed his Anti-Abortion Stance, Oct. 9, 2012:
In multiple reports (including the Huffington Post), Romney’s most recent comment on abortion has been, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda…”
To be fair this article and others are reporting that Romney had previously said that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and I have been unable to find him saying exactly that statement. He did say that he would “prefer” for Roe V. Wade to be overturned (see quote above).
I would not go so far as to say that Mitt Romney has flopped on this issue, but he has certainly been craftily constructing his language to appeal to the strong right during his primary campaign and the moderate center now as the presidential election approaches.
This is legitimate as far as precedent for presidential conduct is concerned, though in my view I would like to see a more straightforward approach to the American people.
I believe that Romney has gone wrong on two points. His first mistake is his stance on Planned Parenthood, which is fueled by the pro-life position of the right wing. His second mistake, whether it is intentionally misleading or not, is his newly evolved approach to the issue of abortion not being a presidential concern.
Planned Parenthood receives 1/3 of its funding from the government. Romney has said that Planned Parenthood will go on without government funding.
Maybe it will, but 1/3 of the funds cut for a service that provides 1 million pap smears, 830,000 breast exams, and 4 million STD tests a year, is invaluable to 1 in 5 women in this country.
Planned Parenthood should be a concern for all women whether they have needed the service or not. The loss of even one of these facilities, none of which are permitted to perform abortions using tax payer money, is a great loss to the health of this country’s women.
To deny this organization 1/3 of its funds is not something to be tossed around lightly as if Romney were merely proposing to fire Big Bird.
The second point in which Romney is wrong, and I tend to think being intentionally misleading to appeal to the moderate center, is that the President of the United States of America has no say in Supreme Court decisions. What Romney is referring to here would be the reversal of Roe v. Wade which would allow states to make the decision of whether or not abortions are legal within their own borders.
This election is incredibly important for abortion rights (whether for or against) as the next 4 years will likely see the appointment of a few new justices.
Two of the Supreme Court justices (Kennedy and Scalia) were appointed by Reagan and are 76 years old.
Stephen Breyer is 74 years old.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (a truly amazing woman) is 79 years old and has fought both colon and pancreatic cancer. As the toughest person on that Supreme Court, she may outlast the next presidential term but retirement may be in her future. Goodness knows, she deserves a rest if she should want it.
The average age of the last five retired Supreme Court justices is 79.8, and that number is thrown off by former Justice Stevens who retired at 90 years old.
So it is safe to say that one or more justices may decide to retire in the next four years or suffer health problems which would make them unable to serve.
If Romney were elected he would be appointing the next Supreme Court justice, and it is probably fair to assume that this justice will have an interest in overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which would allow states to make abortion illegal.
This is a pretty big deal. Mitt Romney very likely will have a crucial role in the future of abortion rights.
So perhaps Mitt Romney has not “changed” his position on abortion, but his carefully selected words to appeal to a different (and much larger), but Romney should own the future president’s role in abortion legislation rather than shrug it off as if it is not of presidential concern.