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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Romney\'s Tightrope Walk Over Abortion


When Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, pledged at the debate on Thursday night that “the policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,'' it illustrated just how vexing the abortion issue has become for Mitt Romney and his running mate.

Asked if those “who believe that abortion should remain legal” should be worried if a Romney-Ryan ticket were elected, Mr. Ryan said that “people through their elected representatives” should make decisions about abortion “through the democratic process'' â€" a statement that is tantamount to saying that abortion policy should be changed through legislat ion.

But Mr. Romney, in a recent interview with The Des Moines Register, said abortion would not be on his legislative agenda.

“There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda,'' he said. That statement, in itself, carries echoes of a pledge that Mr. Romney made, and reneged on, when he was governor of Massachusetts.

As a candidate for governor in 2002, Mr. Romney said that while he personally opposed abortion, he would not impose his view on others. He filled out a questionnaire for Planned Parenthood saying that he supported “the substance” of the Supreme Court's landmark abortion rights decision of 1973, Roe v. Wade.

Mr. Romney promised then to maintain the status quo, keeping intact abortion rights that already existed under state law. He also told abortion rights advocates that, as a Republican on the national stage, he would be a “good voice” for t hem.

But while governor, Mr. Romney cited his antiabortion views in taking a stand against creating embryos for scientific experimentation. And when the state legislature sent him a bill to expand access to emergency contraception, he vetoed it. He said a medical professional had told him that the drug, known as the morning-after pill, would “terminate life after conception.”

This appears to have been a pivot point for Mr. Romney, the moment he decided he could no longer claim to favor abortion rights. Earlier this year, Mr. Romney explained his actions to the editorial board of The Des Moines Register by saying he realized that he could not “just leave things the way they were.''

In July 2005, the day after his veto of the emergency contraception bill, he described himself in an opinion article in The Boston Globe as “a pro-life governor in a pro-choice state.” He also called for decisions about abortion to be left to the states, a position that was tantamount to advocating the reversal of Roe v. Wade.