Down with Gold

Romney, Freedom, and Abortion

Jonathan B. Wight

Mitt Romney seems like a nice guy. He clearly is a natural-born leader in the sense that he rises to top of his cohorts, whether in the Mormon Church, the Olympics, and the political scene. But he reeks of falsehood about his core beliefs; he seems a chameleon willing to say whatever he thinks will sell. A huge example is his successful health care reform in Massachusetts requiring mandates that now he disavows. A second is his former commitment to libertarian ideals of freedom and small government when it affects women's health, which again he now disavows.

Slate has a fascinating account of Romney's flip-flops on abortion policy and the personal and political calculations that likely lay behind it. The Mormon Church is mainly pro-life, with exceptions for rape and health of mother. As a bishop in the church Romney counseled a woman in her hospital bed not to have an abortion even though her life was endangered.

Later, when running for the Senate in liberal Massachusetts, Romney hired a consultant who told him he would never win unless he switched to pro-choice. In 1994 Romney and his wife attended Planned Parenthood fundraiser and donated to it. Here is Romney in 1994 supporting his pro-choice stance and justifying it based on his own moral sentiments:

"Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time that my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that."

Later, running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney pledged a commitment to liberal ideals:

"Believing in people is protecting their freedom to make their own life choices, even if their choice is different than yours. That choice is a deeply personal one, and the women of our state should make it based on their beliefs, not mine, not the government's."

Romney now says that in 2006 he had a conversion back to pro-life because of his consideration of stem-cell research with embryos. That is probably about the same time he began to plot his national ambition to reach the presidency.

Abortion and stem-cell controversies are painful and difficult. Liberal intellectual reasoning leads people to their own mountains of conceit and prejudice against those who hold a more primitive moral sentiments (and Catholic view) that human life begins at conception. In the future we will learn much more—and it would not surprise me if science comes to find that some consciousness exists in an embryo or even in a sperm and egg. The Catholic intuition may turn out to be closer to the truth.

That does not mean its abortion stance is the correct one; Romney's 1994 and 2002 position on abortion may be the best we have at the moment, given all hard and bad choices.


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