Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Opinion

States' rights and wrongs and Romney

From my vantage point, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has his approach to states' rights backward. He is willing to let states interfere with people's procreation decisions and family planning — which is not the Supreme Court's business, he claims — but when it comes to how states spend their money, a Romney administration would tell states to fund religiously affiliated social service groups that actively discriminate.

These views emerged at a recent Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire where Romney disingenuously told moderator George Stephanopoulos that no state would want to ban birth control, so there's no sense talking about such "a silly thing."

Romney certainly knows that as recently as last fall there was an all-out assault on birth control at the state level. Mississippi voters were asked to imbue a zygote the size of a grain of sand with full legal rights. The "personhood amendment" failed, but had it passed it would have banned the use of many forms of birth control including IUDs and oral contraceptives that can interfere with a fertilized egg's implantation. Before the vote, Romney essentially endorsed the measure.

Romney, who once supported abortion rights, is making it clear that he is "all in" on the side of protecting microscopic clumps of embryonic cells, even to the point of rejecting a constitutional right to privacy. When asked whether he agreed with a Supreme Court case that established the right of privacy (in 1965 the high court struck down a Connecticut law banning contraception on privacy grounds), Romney said: "I don't believe they decided that correctly," noting that the right to privacy was the foundation of Roe vs. Wade.

Romney won't stand up for the privacy rights of people who want to control their own procreation. He claims it's a state issue. But in the same debate he called it religious discrimination when states refuse to fund religiously affiliated social service organizations, such as Catholic Charities, that bar same-sex couples from their adoption and foster care programs. Funny, no mention of states' rights here.

Romney denounced an episode in Massachusetts where Catholic Charities was "forced" to give up a state contract for adoptive services once same-sex couples were given the right to marry. He agreed with Newt Gingrich that this is anti-Catholic bigotry.

In fact, by refusing to place children in same-sex families Catholic Charities was violating state antidiscrimination law. It was not "forced" to do anything. No one has a right to a state contract. But Romney, who was governor at the time, claimed this was a First Amendment violation, saying in effect that states must fund religiously backed intolerance.

I wonder what Romney would say if Catholic hospitals refused to allow same-sex partners to be medical surrogates or enjoy full visitation rights? Would Romney force state Medicaid funds to flow anyway?

If Catholic Charities doesn't want to work in a nondiscriminatory manner, there are plenty who would take its place, or the programs can disassociate from the church. After Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois decided last year they would close most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than place adoptive and foster children with same-sex couples, some of the dioceses decided to spin off the work into new secular nonprofits.

I find it interesting that same-sex families are anathemas to Catholic Charities when all sorts of other heretical behavior is ignored. The organization places foster and adoptive children with parents who are nonbelievers, use birth control, or violate a host of other fundamental church tenets. According to Catholic Charities' manifesto, "Jesus Christ rejected no one. … So too, Catholic Charities accept even those whom political majorities would ignore or punish." But a same-sex couple who have committed their lives to each other, well that's just untenable.

According to Romney's view, states have a constitutional obligation to fund this kind of discrimination. But as to whether people can choose the size of their family, well that's a matter best left to the geniuses who occupy state capitols.

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