While GOP presidential frontrunner Herman Cain struggles to figure out his position on abortion, fellow candidate Mitt Romney decided to change his a long time ago. Once a proponent of a woman’s right to choose, the champion flip-flopper later adopted the “pro-life” position to pander to his national, more right-wing base as a presidential candidate. Following his base down an increasingly radical road, Romney is now pledging to push greater federal abortion restrictions and defines life as beginning at conception.
As Matt Yglesias points out, what makes Romney’s now-”staunch” pro-life position so distasteful is how staunchly he defended a woman’s right to choose while running for governor of the left-leaning state of Massachusetts in 2002. He fiercely denied then “that he was even slightly less pro-choice” than his opponent, offering “one of the most passionate defenses of abortion rights” heard from Romney or any male politician in an interview with the late Tim Russert. But Romney’s pro-choice views were not just relegated to one convenient debate answer. As a pro-choice advocates told the Washington Post, Romney actually slammed the entire Republican party for “being so vehemently anti-choice” and viewed any move to overturn the right to an abortion as a “serious mistake for our country“:
Melissa Kogut, the NARAL group’s executive director in 2002, recalled Wednesday that as she and other participants in the meeting began to pack their belongings to leave after the 45-minute session, Romney became “emphatic that the Republican Party was not doing themselves a service by being so vehemently anti-choice.”
The abortion rights supporters came away from the meeting pleasantly surprised. Romney declined to label himself “pro-choice” but said he eschewed all labels, including “pro-life.” He told the group that he would “protect and preserve a woman’s right to choose under Massachusetts law” and that he thought any move to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision would be a “serious mistake for our country.”
Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstrom said the advocates are mistaken because “people’s memories change with time,” adding ironically that they “change depending on which way the political winds are blowing.”
It is important to note that Romney’s current belief that life begins at conception would effectively ban all abortions, and without question qualifies as a move to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling.
As Yglesias notes, Romney is unlikely to flop back towards a more progressive stance now that he is “bought” by the right. However, if people are at all concerned about the consistency of a candidate’s character, Romney leaves little to praise.