Political Animal


September 22, 2012 4:36 PM Reproductive rights for me, but not for thee: Mitt Romney edition

By Kathleen Geier

Oh my. I was not aware of this: in 2011, Mitt Romney’s son Tagg and Tagg’s wife Jen, who earlier this year had twins through a surrogate, signed a contract with the surrogate giving themselves and her the right to abort a pregnancy, even in non-life-threatening situations. And on top of that, Mitt himself subsidized the arrangement, since he helped pay for the surrogate’s services. Oopsy!

TMZ is reporting that the contract provided for the right to abortion if the pregnancy was judged to pose “potential physical harm” to the surrogate, or if the fetus was deemed to be less than genetically perfect. To be fair, it’s unclear whether Mitt or his lawyers actually read the contract. It’s also true that Tagg’s lawyer claims that the abortion provision was not something Tagg and his wife wanted and that it was kept in the contract by mistake, but that explanation sounds suspiciously like ex post facto ass-covering to me.

The contract’s provisions are eminently reasonable, because no one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will, no matter what the reason. Yet Mitt Romney has claimed that he supports abortion rights only in the event of rape, incest, or a threat to the health or life of the mother. I don’t doubt that, like the vast majority of elites, Romney would support abortion rights for his own family members for any reason, because rich white Christians by definition are not those slutty, trashy people running around having the “wrong” kind of abortions, just for the hell of it.

Still, these revelations pose a dilemma for Romney’s anti-choice supporters: by explicitly and personally subsidizing the right to abortion, as Mitt Romney did by paying the surrogate, is he better, worse, or no different than a nefarious outfit like Planned Parenthood? Inquiring minds want to know!

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • Mitt's Magic Underwear on September 22, 2012 5:21 PM:

    Every rule and law is for the unwashed -- the Mittster has no rules!

  • wheresthebeef on September 22, 2012 5:30 PM:

    Republican hypocrisy? Film at eleven.

  • Janet on September 22, 2012 5:33 PM:

    And why is Mitt subsidizing the procedure? Sounds like Tagg and Jen "need to take responsibility for their lives"...

  • weirdnoise on September 22, 2012 5:36 PM:

    I suspect that there are quite a few in the Republican base that would be squeamish about the idea of surrogacy, not just abortion.

  • DRF on September 22, 2012 5:38 PM:

    I dislike Romney as much as anyone, but this story is inaccurate and distorted.

    Based on the more thorough and careful story that I read, the contract merely states that any decision regarding abortion is to be made by the surrogate if her health is at stake, while the decision is to be made by the adoptive parents if there is a question of the child having birth defects, etc. This is a perfectly sensible allocation of responsibility for an act which remains legal, and is in no way an endorsement of abortion by any of the Romneys.

    There is no story here, and Geier should not have posted this. We should be focusing on real issues and real stories.

  • jjm on September 22, 2012 5:59 PM:

    To DRF: you are simply wrong. Given that the man running for president has declared himself against abortion on any grounds, after saying that he supported a woman's right to choose, and then changed again and said it was ok for the health of the mother, this insight into which choice he might make in real life seems important.

    What IS important about this story is the lying about it after the fact. "Oh we didn't really want it." "Oh, if the baby was defective, it's ok!" (! this is a real shocker, actually, that the parents would want to decide to abort a defective fetus. What would Palin and Santorum say about that?!) -- But, anyway, "we were 'unaware' of this clause in the contract."

    This is a family of weasels.

    How are we to know the 'surrogates' aren't the sons' sister wives, by the way?

  • Joel on September 22, 2012 6:00 PM:

    "Based on the more thorough and careful story that I read . . . "

    Link, please.

  • William Burns on September 22, 2012 6:04 PM:

    How could a sponsor try to enforce an abortion on an unwilling surrogate? That would be laughed out of court.

    Game over for Mitt, I think.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2012 6:10 PM:


    Could it be:

    If the Republicans can't count on their Evangelical ground-troops, who can they count on?

    Jayzoos H. Keerist with cojones in a nut-cracker, is there ANY politician in the recent history of this country who is this compromised - THIS INEPT!!!

    And yet, Mitt will still get about 42-49% of the votes.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2012 6:12 PM:


    Could it be:

    If the Republicans can't count on their Evangelical ground-troops, who can they count on?

    Jayzoos H. Keerist with cojones in a nut-cracker, is there ANY politician in the recent history of this country who is this compromised - THIS INEPT!!!

    And yet, Mitt will still get about 42-49% of the votes.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2012 6:14 PM:


    Could it be:

    If the Republicans can't count on their Evangelical ground-troops, who can they count on?

    Jayzoos H. Keerist with cojones in a nut-cracker, is there ANY politician in the recent history of this country who is this compromised - THIS INEPT!!!

    And yet, Mitt will still get about 42-49% of the votes.

  • c u n d gulag on September 22, 2012 6:21 PM:


    If there were a God, CRAPTCHA would be busy being sodomized by Satan's minions in Hell.


    Jayzoos H. Keerist giving 'A Sermon to the Money-grabbers,' when we finally be rid of this horror?

  • TCinLA on September 22, 2012 6:43 PM:

    At least his inconsistency is consistent.

  • shk on September 22, 2012 7:08 PM:

    This is a mean-spirited non-story. Nothing in the agreement tells us anything about the parents abortion beliefs or intentions, let alone Mitt's. You need a much better reason than this to drag a candidate's family life into the campaign. We are kicking Romney's ass; no need to get down in the mud.

  • critic on September 22, 2012 7:50 PM:

    This is totally a valid criticism. Terminating a pregnancy because it posses a threat to the life of the woman carrying it or because the fetus is deformed is normal. That's the reason adults who got pregnant on purpose have abortions. That's a very reasonable clause to have in the contract, but if you do that and maintain that you're some pro-life zealot, you're a hypocrite. Since Mitt Romney paid for it, he bears responsibility.

    Granted, not the worst thing he's done in his life, but certainly worth reporting.

  • Lolly on September 22, 2012 8:08 PM:

    If the pro-lifers really cared about each fetus as much as they say, this would of course end Mitt's candidacy.

    But anyone with an IQ above room temperature can see by now that the concern about "life" is really a determination to control and punish slutty women.

    Surrogate moms probably don't fit the bill for slutty women, at least for most of these folks, so if they have abortions to save their health or because the baby is critically deformed, it's ok.

    They wouldn't say this out loud, and they may not even be fully conscious of the rationale behind their determination, but that's what's going on.

  • Hue and Cry on September 22, 2012 8:35 PM:

    I think it is a knock out punch, really....given his VP choice, and Mitt's relationships with right wing Republicans who:

    "According to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the 112th Congress offered up an overwhelming 55 anti-women bills, averaging more than one a week.

    From the report:

    Since the beginning of the 112thCongress in January 2011, the Republican-controlled House has cast 55 votes for anti-women policies that undermine women’s health, roll back women’s rights, and defund programs and institutions that provide support for women.

    “House Republicans have voted repeatedly for legislation that would be harmful to women’s health and women’s rights,” said Rep. Waxman. “I have worked for decades to promote equality for women, but the bipartisan support for women’s programs that used to exist in Congress has been shattered by tea party extremism. The Republican-controlled House has become the most anti-women House in modern history.”

    The report, prepared by the Democratic staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee, found that the House passed an average of one anti-women vote for every week that it has been in session for the 112th Congress. These votes constitute almost 5% of all House legislative votes taken since January 2011"

  • jcricket on September 22, 2012 9:01 PM:

    We should be focusing on real issues and real stories.

    Romney's totally bogus position on just about everything he talks about IS the story. Or haven't you been listening lo, these past few weeks?

  • emjayay on September 22, 2012 9:11 PM:

    I would think that almost anyone who decided to be a surrogate mother would feel free to have an abortion for any reason at any time, unless they were some sort of Jesus freak having the baby to serve the Lord or something. Who's going to stop them, no matter what is in any contract?

    To me it would be bad enough to have some kind of defective human growing inside me, and it being not even mine would make it way worse. Causing a health problem? Forget it, it's over.

  • James E. Powell on September 22, 2012 10:19 PM:

    To be fair, it’s unclear whether Mitt or his lawyers actually read the contract.

    You're kidding, right? Or maybe you have no idea how rich people who have lawyers behave.

  • Nancy Cadet on September 22, 2012 10:23 PM:

    The point in reporting this is Mitt's hypocrisy. Apparently even various restrictions on egg donation or IVF that he has supported in this campaign would have outlawed his son's use of surrogacy. There is clearly a message of " it's OK for me, not for thee"in Romney's actions. as Charles Pierce in Esquire has put it, we are The Help.

    So Romney espouses a far right ideology that is inconvenient in his personal life . he's running for office, gosh darn it!

  • DCSusie on September 22, 2012 11:36 PM:

    shk -since the Republicans want to insert themselves into the uterus of every pregnant woman in the country I see NO problem in inserting Mitt the Sh*t's family into the campaign. I urge TMZ to finish the job and find out if the Romney's had amniocentesis done on the surrogate during the pregnancy (I would bet there is about 100% chance they did) which would settle the question of whether they were intending to have the surrogate abort if their little 'purchases' were not genetically suited to become part of the Master Race.

  • Varecia on September 22, 2012 11:55 PM:

    "Any decision to abort because of potential harm to the child, or to reduce the number of fetuses, is to be made by the intended parents."

    Hmmm: "...to reduce the number of fetuses." How does that square with ANY Republican/conservative position? And it certainly does not square with the following:

    "...Mitt has said, "I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother." Otherwise, Romney is against abortion..."

    This situation is definitely relevant to the election. The Republicans have made reproductive issues a part of the election. Everyone else's reproductive life and reproductive decisions are under the spotlight, so there is no crying "Foul!" here. Republicans can, of course, opt to remove reproductive issues from their platform and announce that publicly, and then this won't have to be examined.

  • MuddyLee on September 23, 2012 8:18 AM:

    The TMZ thing sounds like something that would be on the Drudge report or rightwing radio - if Romney was a democrat. Will the MSM report this?

  • Ronald on September 23, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Mitt did not make millions of dollars by missing clauses in contracts. Guaranteed they knew exactly what was in that contract, word for word.
    It is simple hypocrisy, and, as the headline said, 'for me but not for thee' attitude.

  • briinhild on September 23, 2012 12:14 PM:

    My understanding was that Mitt slipped up on a Sunday talk show and said he supported abortion in the case of a threat to the ---health--- or life of the mother.

    However, as has so often been the case with Mitt, his campaign quickly retracted the "health" part.

    The wingnuts are strongly opposed to a health exemption; they think it gives doctors too much latitude.

    I forget what piece of proposed anti-abortion legislation it was, or whether it ever went anywhere in the House, but someone was trying to add an amendment with a health exemption, and Paul Ryan said the legislation would be "meaningless" with a health exemption.

  • golack on September 23, 2012 12:17 PM:

    The "fetus personhood" laws would make surrogacy itself illegal. If he supports those, then it would be a fair question to ask him if he didn't want those grandchildren.

    Ok, the nicer thing would be to ask if it's ok for his family to use surrogacy, why does he want to make it illegal for others to do the same?

  • Anonymous on September 23, 2012 1:13 PM:

    if Romney was a democrat. Will the MSM report this?

    If Romney were a Democrat, he wouldn't have to pander to a Xianist fundamentalist base.

  • boatboy_srq on September 23, 2012 1:31 PM:

    The killer synchronicity here is the anti-choice political stance (which makes the contract unacceptable) coupled with the "we were 'unaware' of this clause in the contract" statements.

    Anti-choicers would be incensed at the option even being available, never mind that this is boilerplate contract language for such an agreement. Even suggesting that abortion is an option is unGawdly - and therefore should be illegal - to them.

    But this loses Romney both the Libertarian and thinking person's votes as well. The "we were unaware..." line shows that they don't read contracts: caveat emptor applies, and they obviously got something they didn't want because they were too dumb a family of consumers to read the fine print. And on the thinking side, if the Romney's are too dumb/lazy/inept to read the entire contract, think what Romney would do with a piece of legislation - or worse, a treaty - that would land on his desk if pResident: the side effects of the fine print could cripple the US economy, or it's negotiating power on the world stage, or strongarm it into some unwanted conflict or difficult alliance, merely because Romney didn't "read" the document before he signed.

    I agree it's a transparent excuse, but the excuse may be worse than the contract. I have no doubt the Romney clan reviewed the document in some detail, and probably performed a word search on it to find all the objectionable parts, so "we were unaware" rings well and truly false. But suggesting that the entire family didn't read a legal document in full may be worse than lying about how problematic language remained in the contract in the first place.

  • Brenda Johnson on September 23, 2012 4:42 PM:

    Wow, is all I have to say. First, I'm wondering how on earth the abortion-related aspects of the contract could even be enforced. How, for one, would you compel the surrogate *not* to obtain an abortion if she decided she wanted to have one and it was otherwise legal for her to do so? And how, for another, could you compel her to *have* an abortion if, for instance, Tagg and Jen decided the fetus wasn't genetically perfect enough and tried to exercise their pregnancy veto rights under the contract? Setting aside the whole reproductive rights side of things, a general principle of contract law is that you can't compel the performance of a personal service contract (because that would be like, indentured servitude, you know).

  • Richard Hershberger on September 24, 2012 11:48 AM:

    Regarding the "I didn't read the contract" defense, in a sensible world this claim would be the death sentence to his candidacy. I don't, however, think it will. This is well within the tradition of the Republican Party.

    Think back to the halcyon days of the Reagan administration and the Iran-Contra hearings. There was clear evidence that illegal activities were discussed at meetings with Reagan present. His defense was that he had no clue what was discussed. The national establishment held its collective breath: here was a sitting president openly admitting to personal incompetence. The expectation was that this would be held against him, but it turned out that his persona of the kindly great-uncle carried him through it: no one holds it against great-uncle if he dozes through family gatherings.

    Since then Republican officials have routinely adopted this, such that I call it the Republican Defense: when caught doing something naughty, the reflexive response is to claim to being too incompetent to be held responsible for the deed. At this point not even their supporters expect competence from Republican officials, so the argument is accepted as a matter of course.

    Destructive incompetence hasn't been Romney's selling point the way it was with W, but how many people who want a competent president vote Republican nowadays? I suppose it might hurt him at the margins, but he has been losing those margins anyway.