Romney Wrong That His Abortion Flip Flop Like Reagan’s
By: Warner Todd Huston
Former Massachusetts Governor and current GOP candidate for president Mitt Romney has been doing his level best to redefine in his favor his past stance on abortion and to push his newfound anti-abortion position as he continues his campaign. Romney appeared on the August 12th edition of Fox News Sunday to face host Chris Wallace who confronted the Governor with several video clips of Romney’s professing far more support for abortion just 5 years ago than he now claims to have espoused then, or that he claims he currently espouses.
Romney has been desperately trying to distance himself from his past abortion stance and has been lately saying he was always “personally pro-life” and was mistaken to begrudgingly allow for pro-abortion support while he was Governor. Also, during the Sunday ABC Republican debates in August, Romney tried a mae culpa of sorts on his past stance calling it the “greatest mistake of his life.” Romney told George Stephanopoulos, “My greatest mistake was when I first ran for office being deeply opposed to abortion but saying I’d support the current law, which was pro-choice and effectively a pro-choice position. That was just wrong.”
But, Chris Wallace presented Romney with proof that pretty much devastates Romney’s claim that he never supported abortion and that he only bowed to his Massachusetts constituency’s desires. Wallace played two video clips where Romney went much further then any begrudging support, both of which in fact, seemed more like active advocacy than any perfunctory support. After the clips, Wallace reminded Romney that “for eight years” he had said that he would “protect and respect a woman’s right to choose.”
Video Clip One transcript:
M. ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it.
Video Clip Two transcript:
M. ROMNEY: I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard. I will not change any provisions of Massachusetts’s pro-choice laws.
But as Romney’s current explanation is that he was always “personally pro-life” but that he made a mistake not to say so in the past, he also said just last December that he has “grown” to his current position. This “grown” claim seems to make the lie to his more recent GOP debate claim of having “always personally opposed abortion.”
What is plain is that the evidence shows that Romney evolved from being a qualified abortion supporter as governor, to become a possible candidate claiming that he viewed abortion as wrong but supported it because those who voted for him by and large supported it, to an official candidate that says that he was always anti-abortion and regrets that he seemed to support it as governor. Its all hardly believable, but it does show a candidate who will say what he thinks his constituency wants to hear, at least on the issue of abortion.
Of course, these claims are hard to assess as who really knows what is in someone’s heart? Certainly his past statements seem much more as advocacy for abortion but who can really say what is in his heart today? We can quibble about the veracity and truth of those statements and still not be able to successfully arrive at the truth, granted. But, the most disingenuous claim Romney has made, and one that can be assessed for its truth, is his claim that he has grown in his abortion position just like Ronald Reagan did when Reagan was first confronted with the issue while Governor of California in 1967. Romney told Chris Wallace that as governor Reagan was “adamantly pro-choice,” and that Reagan “became pro-life as he experienced life,” and presumably as his governorship evolved.
Romney’s claim, however, is just patently false. Reagan’s most able biographer, Lou Cannon, has documented* that in contravention to Romney’s claim that Reagan was “adamantly pro-choice” Governor Reagan had never really given the abortion issue much thought before he took office. Cannon demonstrates that when Reagan was first confronted with abortion in 1967 he was unusually indecisive and had a difficult time deciding what he should do with a liberal abortion bill winding its way through the state house in Sacramento.
Cannon documents that after the abortion bill passed the California Senate, Reagan was asked by reporters during a press conference about his stance on the bill. When asked if he would sign the bill, Reagan answered, “I haven’t had time to really sit down and marshal my thoughts on that.” Such a reply certainly does not reveal an “adamant” position on the issue, as Romney claims Reagan held. Further, such indecision was not in any way a hallmark of the Reagan mode of operation.
In fact, Cannon writes that in 1968, the year after the bill passed, Reagan said that “those were awful weeks,” and that he would never have signed the bill if he had “been a more experienced governor.”
In light of the evidence it cannot be said that Reagan was ever an “adamant” pro-abortion supporter who later “grew” into an anti-abortion advocate. For Romney to invoke the spirit of Ronald Reagan in this way is a disgraceful attempt to co-opt the reputation of the most famous and successful politician of his age and an icon of the conservative movement to the aid of a candidate floundering on an issue. Mitt Romney’s abortion problem bears no resemblance at all to Ronald Reagan’s views “grown” or not.
Much can be said of Romney and his abortion problem. You can take him at his word that he “grew” into a more staunch pro-lifer or not. But one thing is absolutely sure; Mitt Romney is not like Ronald Reagan in any way, shape, manner or form.
A Transcript of Romney’s reply to Chris Wallace from Fox News Sunday, August 12th, 2007:
M. ROMNEY: Yes. Yeah, that’s right. And then when I became governor â€” I don’t know what’s so unusual about this, but when I became governor and when legislation was brought to my desk that dealt with life, and I sat down and I said, “Am I going to sign this? Because I personally oppose abortion. Am I going to sign this?”
And I brought in theologians. I brought in scientists, took it apart â€” this related to embryonic cloning. And I said, “I simply have to come down on the side of life,” and wrote an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe and said, “Look, here is why I am pro-life.”
And I laid out in my view that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of life. And you know what? I’m following in some pretty good footsteps.
It’s exactly what Ronald Reagan did. As governor, he was adamantly pro-choice. He became pro-life as he experienced life.
And the same thing happened with Henry Hyde and George Herbert Walker Bush. And so if there’s some people who can’t get over the fact that I’ve become pro-life, that’s fine.
But I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I am pro-life and that I was wrong before, in my view, and that I’ve taken the right course.
*Governor Reagan, His Rise to Power, by Lou Cannon, published in 2003 by Public Affairs, New York. Reference Chapter 16, pages 208 through 214.