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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney flipped in 2005 to take a stance similar to the Obama administration on hospital mandates for the morning-after pill for rape victims, according to news reports from seven years ago.

According to a Boston Globe article dated Dec. 9, 2005, Romney reversed course on the state’s emergency-contraception law, saying all hospitals in Massachusetts would be obligated to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims.

The decision overturned a ruling by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds, the paper reported.

Romney is said to have initially supported that interpretation, but indicated he had changed direction after his legal counsel, Mark D. Nielsen, concluded the new law superseded a pre-existing rule saying private hospitals cannot be forced to provide abortions or contraception.

”And on that basis, I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said in 2005.

The Globe noted, “The unexpected decision revived an awkward political situation for Romney, who has staked out more conservative positions on social issues as he gears up for a possible presidential run in 2008. After vetoing the emergency contraception bill this summer, he declared himself firmly ‘pro-life’ and faulted the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.”

Just last month, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services ruled that all employers, including Catholic hospitals and schools, be required to offer free access to FDA-approved contraceptives such as birth-control pills and Plan B (the so-called morning-after pill) through health insurance plans.

“The president’s interest is in making sure that … all women here have access to the same preventive care services,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

“He is also concerned about and understands the religious concerns that have been raised,” Carney said, stressing the White House would work to see if “the implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns.”

Romney’s apparent flip-flop on the matter was noted by radio host Rush Limbaugh this afternoon.

“It’s just amazing to me that we have the area of commonality here between an issue that’s become highly charged and controversial [these past few weeks],” he said.

“It’s illustrative here of the point that I think is salient, that is the administration not really that unhappy if Romney’s the nominee because there are a couple things – Wall Street and health care – that they think they can just wipe off the table as something that Obama can be criticized for with any credibility whatsoever.”

“When you see somebody running for office,” Limbaugh continued, “do you think you know why they want to be president? Isn’t it amazing? … We’re left to assume why these guys want to be president.”

On Monday, the Romney campaign began circulating an online petition against the new HHS regulation.

“The Obama administration is at it again. They are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away. … If you have had enough of the Obama administration’s attacks on religious liberty, stand with Mitt and sign the petition,” the petition reads.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is among Romney’s opponents in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, is calling Romney a hypocrite.

“Romneycare and Obamacare they’re too similar,” Gingrich said. “There’s been a lot of talk about the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church. Well the fact is, Gov. Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor.”

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