Let’s take a moment and examine Mitt Romney’s controversial history with the issue of abortion. This has gotten much press and it’s important as we keep tracking this to know where Romney stands (where Romney really stands is anybody’s guess). In 2002 he was vocally pro-choice. He answered a Planned Parenthood questionnaire as follows:

“Do you support the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade? YES

Do you support state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women? YES

In 1998 the FDA approved the first packaging of emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after pill.” Emergency contraception is a high dose combination of oral contraceptives that if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can safely prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Do you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception? YES”

He answered a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) questionnaire with the following statement:

“I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s. The truth is no candidate in the governor’s race in either party would deny women abortion rights. So let’s end an argument that does not exist and stop these cynical and divisive attacks that are made only for political gain.”

At the Massachusetts Republican Convention in 2002 Romney stated:

“Believing in people is protecting their freedom to make their own life choices, even if their choice is different from yours. Accordingly, I respect and will fully protect a woman’s right to choose. That right is a deeply personal one, and the women of our state should make it based on their beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”

It is around this time that Romney began using the phrase “personally pro-choice” to describe his beliefs instead of being politically pro-choice. Until now he had only offered full-throated support of a woman’s right to choose, but his subtle change in rhetoric was caught by his opponent in the 2002 Massachusetts Gubernatorial election, Shannon O’Brien who, during the debates criticized Romney saying: “It comes down to a matter of trust. I think Ted Kennedy said it best when he was running against Mitt Romney in 1994. His opponent wasn’t pro-choice or anti-choice, he was multiple choice.” Romney replied; “Let me make this very clear: I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

By 2005 Romney had renounced his pro-choice stance and had become completely pro-life. In July 2005 he vetoed a bill making available the “morning after pill.” He wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining his veto, clarifying his views on abortion. He wrote,

“I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth. 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.”

Romney attributes his shifting position to a meeting he had with a scientist at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Romney claimed in 2006 that the scientist told him “Look, you don’t have to think about this stem cell research as a moral issue, because we kill the embryos after 14 days.” Both Romney and his chief of staff were apparently so shaken up by this comment that they had some sort of epiphany that has lasted till this day. The scientist that Romney met with, Dr. Douglas Melton, disputes this story, however and a spokesperson for the Institute added that “The words ‘kill’ and ‘killing’ are not in Dr. Melton’s professional vocabulary, a vocabulary used to discuss finding cures for diseases in order to save lives.”

Whether Romney had a true change of heart about abortion or he is opportunistic and self-serving and posturing to appeal to a conservative base is unclear. It’s difficult to judge true revelations from political ambition, but the primary voters will be the final judge of this one.

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