DES MOINES, Iowa (BP)–Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, facing criticism about his past support for abortion rights, said Aug. 5 a “defining mistake” in his life was taking a pro-choice position when he was personally pro-life.
The former Massachusetts governor made the comments during a debate with the eight other GOP candidates in Iowa, site of the Jan. 14 Iowa caucuses. They were each asked to name a mistake they learned from that marked a turning point in their life.
“From a political standpoint and a personal standpoint,” Romney said, his mistake took place “when I first ran for office, being deeply opposed to abortion but saying I support the current law, which was pro-choice and effectively a pro-choice position. That was wrong. And when I became a governor and faced a life-and-death decision as a governor, I came down on the side of life.”
Earlier in the debate, Romney and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas exchanged words over a “robo-call” advertisement paid for by Brownback’s campaign. In the automated phone call, a female describes Romney’s position by saying, in part, “As late as 2005, Mitt Romney pledged to support and uphold pro-abortion policies and passed taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts. His wife Ann has contributed money to Planned Parenthood. Mitt told the National Abortion Rights Action League that ‘you need someone like me in Washington.'”
Brownback said it is a “truthful ad.”
“I am pro-life,” the senator said. “I think this is a core issue for our party. I think it’s a big issue for our country. I’m pro-life and I’m whole life…. I think it’s something we oughta fight for. It’s what this party has stood for. It’s what we should stand for.”
Romney, though, strongly disagreed.
“Virtually nothing in that ad is true,” Romney said. “The single word I’d use would be desperate or perhaps negative.”
Moderator George Stephanopoulos then asked, “What is untrue?”
“I am pro-life. That’s the truth,” Romney responded. “And several years ago, when we faced the issue of cloning of embryos in our state, I wrote an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe and said I am pro-life. And every action I’ve taken as governor of Massachusetts has been pro-life.”
Massachusetts Citizens for Life gave Romney an award, he noted.
“[A]nd I get tired of people who are holier-than-thou because they’ve been pro-life longer than I have,” he added.
Although fourth in most national polls, Romney leads in some Iowa and New Hampshire polls. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the leader in national polls, re-affirmed his support during the debate for abortion rights.
Among other debate highlights:
— U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado said, “I have no doubt what the greatest mistake in my life has been, and that is that it took me probably 30 years before I realized that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior.”
— Brownback, asked what he would restore to the Oval Office, said he would work on “rebuilding the family.”
“In Washington, D.C., right now 63 percent of the children are born out of wedlock,” he said. “Nationwide the average is 36 percent. You can raise a good child in that setting, but it gets more difficult. The best place is between a mom and a dad, bonded together for life.”
He added he “would stand for life” and, to applause, said he would appoint a Supreme Court justice he hopes would be the one to tip the scales “to overturn Roe vs. Wade.”