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Romney's pro-life 'conversion' under fire

Once a champion of legalized abortion, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has since 2005 claimed to be pro-life.

Several analysts watching Romney’s career, however, question whether the presidential hopeful’s sudden pro-life conversion was genuine.

One analyst from a Virginia-based think tank points back to a story about Romney’s alleged change of heart that was widely circulated during the former governor’s last run for the White House:

“During the 2008 election the media focused a lot of attention to the series of flip-flops by Romney on the abortion issues going back a decade,” the analyst said. “By the time Romney started to plan his 2008 presidential candidacy, he was claiming to be a strong pro-life advocate as a result of an ‘epiphany’ he had while meeting with stem cell researcher Dr. Douglas Melton.

“Romney claims that Melton stunned him by casually referring to killing embryos,” the analyst said. “But Dr. Melton was astounded to hear about this and quickly informed the media that regarding the conversation in question, ‘We didn’t discuss killing or anything related to it.'”

The American Family Association’s Brian Fischer says that Romney’s decision was more pragmatic than scientific.

“He knew he could not win the GOP nomination running on a pro-death platform, so he magically discovered new-found pro-life convictions,” Fischer said. “There is little question in my mind that Gov. Romney’s conversion on the pro-life issue was one of convenience rather than conviction. The embryonic stem cell discovery was just a handy fig leaf to give his change of position some plausibility.”

Fischer points to Romney’s health-care reforms in Massachusetts as evidence.

“He pushed RomneyCare through after his road-to-Damascus experience on the sanctity of life, not before, and RomneyCare offers the cheapest abortions in
America. It’s possible to get a taxpayer-subsidized abortion in Massachusetts for $50,” Fischer said. “That is not the work of a genuine pro-life convert.”

The political analyst also points to other examples of Romney’s post-“conversion” actions.

“The Boston Globe reviewed Romney’s judicial nominations and found that Romney ‘passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced, instead tapping registered Democrats or independents, including two gay lawyers who have supported expanded same-sex rights,'” the analyst said, quoting the Boston Globe report.

“Given the fact the Democrat party in Massachusetts is extremely pro-abortion, we can assume that most of the Democrats Romney nominated to the bench were pro-abortion,” Fischer concluded.

“Many of the appointments occurred after Romney’s conversion, including that of Stephen Abany, a far-left Democrat homosexual activist nominated in 2005. Just two months after his ‘epiphany,’ he nominated liberal pro-abortion Democrat Matthew Nestor to a lifetime seat on the Somerville District court,” the analyst said.

When Romney met with NARAL leaders in 2002, he promised them his judicial picks would be more likely to protect abortion rights than those of a Democrat Governor!” the analyst said. “He kept his promise even after his ‘conversion.”

The veracity of Romney’s conversion to the pro-life position is not the major problem, contends Massachusetts political analyst and Massachusetts Republican State Committee member James Rappaport. He says the major issue is simply having a position that can be articulated.

“Romney’s major problem is that he doesn’t really have an opinion,” Rappaport said. “He’s flipped and flopped all over the place.”

Rappaport says that Romney’s campaign position on the life issue in the 1994 Senate race was subject to the political whims of Massachusetts GOP leaders.

“He started out as pro-choice in the 1994 primary. I remember in the debate that he was talking about his mother being pro-choice and that was supposed to mean something,” Rappaport said. “Then when he got into the campaign, he became squishier on the issue.”

Fischer also says that Romney’s position on the life issue is based on what office he is seeking and where the office is located.

“He’s an almost entirely poll-driven politician. He decided to run on a pro-choice platform in Massachusetts in 1994, when he took on Ted Kennedy, because his pollsters convinced him that a pro-life candidate could not win in Massachusetts,” Fischer said. “In my judgment, Gov. Romney is a man who will say anything he thinks people want to hear in order to get elected.”

A Virginia-based political analyst who has asked not to be named says Romney’s pro-life conversion is an illusion.

“For 30 years Mitt Romney was a strong advocate of abortion. His wife, Ann, contributed money to Planned Parenthood in 1994 at a Planned Parenthood event both she and her husband attended, but she was filmed during the 2008 campaign claiming, ‘I’ve always been pro-life.’

“Moreover,” the analyst continued, “another video has appeared showing Ann insisting that pro-abortion women need not worry about her husband due to his commitment to the abortion issue. … Like her husband, Mrs. Romney has engaged in deception in regards to abortion, giving us yet another reason why we doubt the sincerity of the Romneys.

“Romney claims to have had a sudden epiphany that changed his mind on abortion, but what about Ann?” the analyst asked. “Are we to believe that his wife had an epiphany at the same time?”

Whatever happened in 2004 and 2005 was critical to the metamorphosis of Romney into “pro-life Mitt,” but Fischer believes the position shifts were calculated moves.

“My assessment is that by 2004 or 2005 Romney had already figured out his chances of reelection in Massachusetts were nil, so he began to set his sights on the White House,” Fischer said.

Rappaport agrees that Romney had determined that his re-election chances were poor, so he determined not to run. He adds that by 2005, Romney had no intention of running for reelection as governor.

“I said to a Boston Globe reporter I know, ‘You know he’s not running for re-election,” Rappaport said. “And he said to me, ‘You’re the only one who’s saying that.'”

Rappaport told the reporter that Romney’s shifting position on some issues telegraphed the fact that he had set his eyes on the White House.

“The one thing you don’t do in Massachusetts if you’re preparing to run for election statewide is move to the right on abortion,” Rappaport said to the Globe reporter. “You can move as far right as you want on capital punishment; you can move as far right as you want on gun control, but you don’t move far right on abortion.

“It was very clear that he had no intention of running for reelection,” Rappaport said.

Fischer concludes that Romney’s sincerity on the life issue is suspect at best.

“He does not mean one single word he says on the sanctity of life and marriage as matters of public policy, and people who are paying attention know it,” Fischer said. “I do not discern any core convictions of conscience in him whatsoever, especially on the issues that matter to social conservatives.”