Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) told Fox News host Mike Huckabee this weekend that he would support an amendment to his state’s constitution to define life as beginning at conception, which would outlaw abortion and potentially many forms of contraception as well. Noting that the state supreme court forced the inclusion of abortion coverage in Romney’s universal health care law, the GOP presidential front-runner said the only way to undo the decision would be a constitutional amendment. Asked if he would support such a move, Romney replied, “absolutely”:
HUCKABEE: Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established definition of life beginning of life at conception?
Constitutional amendments to define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization have been pushed in states across the country, and the radical anti-abortion group leading the effort, Personhood USA, is hoping to get proposals on the ballot in nearly half the states by 2012.
But laws that give legal rights to fertilized eggs go much farther than merely outlawing abortions. As ThinkProgress’ Marie Diamond noted, they could also have the effect of outlawing common forms of birth control, since contraceptives like the pill and IUDs can prevent fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Personhood amendments consider these types of birth control a form of abortion, and could potentially even treat them the same as homicide. If these amendments make terminating pregnancy a criminal act, they would also deter doctors from saving the lives of women with abnormal pregnancies because any doctor performing an abortion could risk prosecution.
Some of the Republican presidential field’s more radical candidates like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich have already voiced support for giving legal rights to unborn children, but it’s surprising coming from Romney considering that he was staunchly pro-choice for much of his political career.
“I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose,” Romney said in 2002, “I will not change any provisions of Massachusetts’ pro-choice laws.” Romney’s retroactive support for outlawing abortion via constitutional amendment, expressed to Huckabee, clearly seem to contradict his earlier vows to protect his state’s pro-choice laws.
But while Romney griped about the inclusion of abortion coverage in his health law, abortion rates actually fell 1.5 percent in the first year his plan went into effect, suggesting that the best way to lower abortion rates is by expanding coverage, not limiting access to contraception.