It was a hoot seeing Mitt Romney featured in a video tribute to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy at last week's Democratic National Convention. The clip was from a 1994 senatorial debate in which the young Romney flanks left to unseat the great liberal lion. With earnest conviction Romney declares his support for Roe vs. Wade, proclaiming that "abortion should be safe and legal in this country."
To this shape-shifting Kennedy retorts, "I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple-choice." Romney lost the Senate race but kept up his support of abortion rights to eventually win the governorship of Massachusetts. In announcing his candidacy in 2002, Romney promised to "protect the right of a woman to choose."
Then, as Romney was beginning to flirt with presidential aspirations, he came to his famous conversion to oppose abortion rights in 2004, just as it became apparent that a moderate Republican couldn't win evangelical-heavy primaries. His act of revelatory affirmation was to veto legislation in 2005 that would have protected rape victims from unwanted pregnancies by requiring hospital emergency rooms to offer morning-after pills. Romney explained in an op-ed column that the pill would "terminate life after conception."
In the National Review, Romney's top strategist at the time, Mike Murphy, explained this startling about-face this way: "He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly." Murphy's claim was sheepishly retracted, but really, could anything have a clearer ring of truth?
These days Multiple-Choice Mitt generally takes what I'd call a straddling right-wing approach to abortion rights. He opposes Roe and a woman's right to choose but would make exceptions for rape or incest, and would let states decide. It's an anti-abortion-lite position that tells abortion rights Republicans and independents living in the Northeast not to worry. Their rights would be safe in a Romney administration since liberal states would protect them.
Don't believe it. Romney's choice of Ryan as his running mate did more than burnish his culture war cred. It was a promised direction for a Romney administration. Ryan's co-sponsorship of the "Sanctity of Human Life Act" with Senate candidate Todd "legitimate rape" Akin, is a peek at the kind of thinking Romney put on the ticket to reassure the far right that he is one of them.
The bill expands the way a human being is defined under the U.S. Constitution to include a fertilized egg. Ryan wants to transform embryos into full legal persons with the same rights as you and I. No abortion would be legal even for rape and incest, since abortion would equate to murder. This is the posture of the Republican Party's 2012 platform. It calls for the expansion of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment to include the unborn.
If this happened, no court and no state could permit legal abortion. No exceptions. Women, even rape victims, would face criminal charges for having an abortion, and potentially for their miscarriages. In vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research would be murderous acts, too. Romney, the Harvard Law School grad, understands this only too well.
Under this legal regime, the tragic story of the 11-year-old girl in Largo who was raped and impregnated by a convicted felon and her mother's live-in boyfriend would be sadder still. The little girl would be forced by the state to bring the pregnancy to term no matter how it impacted her life prospects or physical and mental health.
In the past, Romney has declared his support for making embryos legal people. In 2007, Romney told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that he endorses the 2004 Republican Party platform calling for a Human Life Amendment, which contained essentially the same language as this year's.
Then, in October 2011, Romney had this exchange with Fox News host Mike Huckabee over a hypothetical personhood amendment in Massachusetts: "Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?" Romney's response: "Absolutely." Romney wants evangelical voters to hear this answer and see his choice of "no exceptions" Ryan. He wants independents and women to think his stance on abortion is less doctrinaire. Like his prior "pro-choice" years, it adds up to little more than audience-ready views, made to order and intrinsically untrustworthy.