Political Animal


April 13, 2012 2:41 PM Romney’s Own Words On Abortion

By Ed Kilgore

In the most startling item of the day (so far!), BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins and Andrew Kaczynski directly accuse the Obama campaign of wrongly attributing to Mitt Romney a desire to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” and “outlaw abortion.” Not true, they say: Romney’s only called for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and hasn’t called for a federal ban on abortions.

The best witness for the Obama campaign’s case is Mitt Romney. The “get rid of Planned Parenthood” charge is a direct quote from Romney in an interview in Missouri last month. No, he didn’t explain exactly how he’d “get rid” of the group, but that’s hardly the Obama campaign’s problem.

More interesting is the claim that Mitt just wants to let states determine abortion policy, like they did in the good old days before Roe v. Wade. As it happens, just yesterday I quoted from a statement Romney made on his campaign web site explaining his refusal to sign the “pledge” proferred by the Susan B. Anthony List (whose spokesperson, interestingly enough, was quoted in the BuzzFeed article vouching for Mitt’s less-than-perfect anti-choice zealotry). Here’s how it begins:

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Is it possible that “should be limited” means anything other than “outlaw?” I don’t think so.

As for the question of which level of government should do the outlawing, there’s this statement which appears to accept SBAL’s demand that candidates support both federal and state action to ban abortions after about 20 weeks of pregnancy:

I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

Pretty sure that’s a direct commitment to federal action to implement the most extreme abortion ban that anti-choice advocates have advanced as theoretically congruent with existing constitutional law.

Since nobody’s arguing that Romney is anything less than fully committed to the reversal of Roe, and he favors “limiting” abortion to all but a few rare cases, and he supports a federal law “limiting” abortions as far as anyone could consider feasible until such time as Roe is indeed reversed—it sure looks to me like this adds up to an agenda of “outlawing abortion” by hook or by crook.

The BuzzFeed writers try to make a big deal out of Romney’s refusal to endorse a Human Life Amendment to read fetal personhood right into the Constitution, bypassing the courts. You don’t have to be a supporter of legal abortion, of course, to have issues with an Amendment that might well outlaw major forms of contraception, and in any event, no one, absolutely no one, thinks there is a snowball’s chance in hell of enacting any controversial constitututional amendment these days, given the immense obstacles posed by the ratification process.

It seems entirely fair to me to suggest that Romney favors an agenda for “outlawing abortion” as fast as possible, and wherever possible, which is exactly what he says he wants to do. Sure, he can’t wave a magic wand and outlaw abortion overnight, but if that’s the objection to the Obama campaign’s statement, I’d say every campaign communication taking opponents’ policy commitments seriously crosses this line.

Lord knows Romney has been slippery as a bucket of eels on the abortion issue throughout his career; Will Saletan’s recent account of Mitt’s various positions reads like a cross between a mystery novel and the translation of ancient texts.

But as he’s spent most of the last two presidential campaigns trying to establish, the man is now firmly anti-choice, and suggesting there is reasonable doubt he’ll do anything less than everything within his power to limit reproductive rights is just plain unreasonable.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mudge on April 13, 2012 2:55 PM:

    It is time for the acolytes to begin the deceitful attempt to etch-a-sketch Romney. Lies will be told to try to deny previous statements.

    Lies have formed the basis of Romney's campaign so far. It's all they know.

  • SadOldVet on April 13, 2012 2:56 PM:

    Good blog Ed.

  • Ron Byers on April 13, 2012 2:59 PM:

    Everybody say "Etch-A-Sketch." It is a whole new campaign.

  • David in NY on April 13, 2012 3:14 PM:

    It's the etch-a-sketch enablers that are worrisome -- they rush to help him shake the toy.

  • T2 on April 13, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Romney's stance on abortion is consistent with the Mormon faith. It's worth noting that when he ran for office in a state considerably more liberal than, say, Utah, his stance was conveniently less fervent.

  • Hedda Peraz on April 13, 2012 3:35 PM:

    It may be inconvenient, but it IS a fact, nevertheless, that there are no nerve endings in the brain, and therefore it is incapable of feeling "pain". (Ask your neighborhood neurosurgeon)

    Does it then follow that the partial birth folks diatribe about "sucking the brains out" of an unborn fetus is not subject to the contraindications of the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act"?
    Jusk askin'.

  • B on April 13, 2012 3:53 PM:

    He voiced support for the Mississippi ballot initiative on the record on TV in an interview with Huckabee which would have defined life beginning at conception. Isn't that a euphemism for banning abortion? He has supported overturning Roe v. Wade. Maybe he never actually said the words I want to ban abortion but one can infer from all of his other statements what his intent is. Of course, that's not to say you can trust at any given time that that will be his position tomorrow because it clearly wasn't when he ran for senate and governor.

  • thebewilderness on April 13, 2012 4:02 PM:

    You would think if they actually cared about the potential for pain they would legislate anesthesia to prevent pain for both the patient and the fetus, but nooo. The pain of the patient is of no interest, only the potential for pain of the fetus. So they write bills that mandate extreme pain for the patient to avoid the potential pain for a fetus that may or may not be alive.
    I think they need to be arrested for practicing medical quackery.

  • Ron Byers on April 13, 2012 4:13 PM:

    I am already tired of Republican operatives saying it is unfair or dishonest to hold Romney to what he actually said. If he didn't want to say "get rid of Planned Parenthood" he shouldn't have said it.

    By the way the "define life as beginning at conception" law isn't just aimed at getting rid of abortion, it also outlaws most forms of conception routinely used by women including the standard birth control pill.

    Of course the life at conception law does allow condoms, so men have the final say over whether women will carry their babies. I guess from the Republican point of view, only men should have any say about contraception.

  • Ron Byers on April 13, 2012 4:18 PM:

    contraception in the second paragraph. Not conception. I wish preview worked. That is the only thing I miss since Benen left.

  • B on April 13, 2012 4:25 PM:

    Of course it outlaws abortion. If life begins at conception, it will no longer matter about viability. It would be a crime to take a human life. The entire analysis of Roe v. Wade is of viability outside of the womb is gone by definition of when life begins.

  • DAY on April 13, 2012 4:50 PM:

    They know there little chance that Roe V Wade will be overturned, so they can fulminate at it, to show what macho men they are.
    Besides, it is a guaranteed fund raiser, and that is ALL politicians really care about.

  • FedSec on April 13, 2012 7:11 PM:

    And suddenly the conversation swings back to the Republicans' "War on Women."

  • votingdemocrat on April 13, 2012 10:54 PM:

    Regarding Romney:
    I can only say that in my lifetime never has there been such a changeable man in terms of his views(never enduring), so obvious a lack of magnetism (nerdy/robotic) and --instead--this big repellency, that underhandedness and forever a (false) presentation!!!
    Machiavellian is derived from the name of Florentine diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli, lifespan 1469-1527, whose book "The Prince" delineated ruthless ways to acquire and maintain political power.
    We see these Mittnonomous (monotonous) lies from the Romney campaign that are obviously ruthless, naive and unwise. Hey--we notice!