MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (BP) — Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney defended his position on abortion during the GOP debate Monday, saying he’s pro-life while touting a letter from the National Right to Life’s Massachusetts affiliate.
Romney’s switch from pro-choice to pro-life has drawn perhaps the most concern from social conservatives, who wonder if the switch was genuine or was done with an eye toward national politics. Speaking at the FoxNews/Wall Street Journal debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Romney acknowledged that the change of heart has drawn “a lot of attention.” When he ran for U.S. Senate in 1994 and for Massachusetts governor in 2002, he advertised himself as pro-choice, although he said he personally opposed abortion.
“When I was running for governor, I said I would leave the law in place as it related to abortion,” Romney said. “And I thought I could go down that narrow path between my personal belief and letting government stay out of the issue. Then a piece of legislation came to my desk and it said we would begin to create embryos for the purpose of destroying those embryos, and I said I simply couldn’t sign something like that. And I penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe and said I’m pro-life.”
Romney vetoed that embryonic stem cell research bill, but the Democrat-controlled legislature overrode him.
At the debate Romney also touted a recent statement from Massachusetts Citizens for Life calling him pro-life. The organization, the state affiliate of National Right to Life, wrote on its website Jan. 4 that the “governor’s positions are pro-life and we feel confident that they will stay that way.”
Romney said during the debate that he’s “always opposed gay marriage.” He was governor when the Massachusetts high court issued its landmark 2003 decision legalizing gay “marriage,” and Romney subsequently fought for a state and federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
The Boston Globe op-ed Romney mentioned was penned in July 2005.
“I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth,” the op-ed read. “I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.”
The “starting point” in the debate over abortion, he wrote then, “should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.”
“In some respects, these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor,” Romney wrote. “In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead — to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited.”
The issue, he said in that column, should be returned to the states, which would require the overturning of Roe. The op-ed can be read online at http://bo.st/fXNRBN.
On the issue of homosexuality, Romney said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” during 2007 that he opposes not only gay “marriage” but also civil unions, although he said he favors domestic partnerships that would grant gay couples benefits “such as hospital visitation rights.” During that appearance, Romney said redefining marriage to include gay couples would mean that “our schools and other institutions” would have to teach there’s no difference between a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
Romney made similar comments during a GOP debate Jan. 7.
“We have to recognize that this decision about what we call marriage has consequence which goes far beyond a loving couple wanting to form a long-term relationship,” Romney said. “… Calling [a gay relationship] a marriage creates a whole host of problems for families, for the law, for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this, 3,000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”
Romney further said that the government defines marriage in the traditional sense and provides benefits to such relationships because it believes a household with a father and mother is the “ideal setting” for children to be raised.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).