Open Letter To RedState, Part II: Honesty and Abortion

Part I of this open letter addresses health care      Part III addresses various concerns

“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” – Ronald Reagan

Liberals are not born. They are created. When people become entrenched in false ideas they no longer feel a need to search for truth. But we would be mistaken to suppose conservatives are not also vulnerable. We have a proclivity to principles, but we are not perfect.

For instance, Romney haters are not born. They are made. And they know so much that isn’t so.

Those who have read Part I of this open letter understand that I believe Mitt Romney has been smeared repeatedly, demonstrably. Unfortunately, many anti-Romney folks have seemingly declared, in the words of Al Gore, “The Debate Is Over.” That is not a conservative approach.

Conservatives are at their best when they take time to think. To be intellectually curious. Demand answers. Hold feet to the fire. To search until they get to the bottom. At their best, they are too smart to be taken by sleight-of-hand. And as a Romney supporter, I want conservatives who oppose Romney to challenge themselves and to challenge me.

The debate is not over. It has just begun.

In upcoming diaries I will challenge you on all the issues. But first I will challenge you on your own vision. According to many of you, your main problem with Romney is trust. But you are trusting sources that tell you not to trust Romney, without extensively delving into those sources, and so due diligence is called for.

If honesty is your concern, I would hope you’d take pause when you see dishonest attacks against Mitt. Especially when critics are lying to falsely accuse Mitt of lying. But that has happened repeatedly, creating a false narrative that Romney lacks honesty, a narrative that ironically feeds the continued justification of further false claims about Mitt.

And that leads me to Rick Perry. You should have a problem with him.

Let’s start with the recent debate. I’ve seen Perry supporters applaud his false claim that Romney hired illegal immigrants. The claim is false both technically and in spirit, and yet Perry stood there projecting indignation, which indicates he either did not understand the facts or was lying about them. Interrupting Romney’s segway into correcting Perry’s false details, Perry with a straight face said, “the American people want the truth.”

Disliking Romney does not mean you should take pleasure in dishonesty, especially while you claim to want a candidate you can trust.

The purpose of the debates is not to see how many viewers a candidate can fool. Certainly there are times when candidates unintentionally mistake the facts. This is not one of those times. Rick Perry planned in advance to break the rules he had signed, which his campaign justifies with the false spin claim that everyone else has been doing the same thing.  After putting his signature down in agreement to those rules, he premeditated to break them. His word is not his bond. The debate moderator said, “I thought Republicans follow the rules.”

In contrast to Perry; Romney, earlier in that same debate, requested specific permission to break a rule, saying, “I know we’re not supposed the ask each other questions, but if you permit.” Romney does not break the debate rules except to finish a sentence when the time expires, because his signature means something to him.

Perry, who drew first blood against Romney, has made clear his attacks will continue:

“This is the start of Romney vs. Romney. We’ll have him debating himself before this is over,”

Problem is, so far Perry’s attacks have been nothing but dishonest. Not just a little dishonest, but carefully crafted smears, every bit as bad as Michael Moore.

For example, here’s one of Perry’s smear ads:

And here is a break-down of the Perry smear:


Notice they stopped the video a tenth of a second before Romney’s “but” where he said he wants the issue handled by the states, which completely refutes the premise of Perry’s attack. They also spliced the video to take out Romney saying, “I hope that isn’t heresy in this room,” then covered-up their splice job by fading into the video immediately after the splice.

Here’s another example in the list of Perry’s smears:

Notice that Perry shows Obama talking about cap-and-trade, while calling Obama’s statement a “carbon copy” of what Romney said. But Romney wasn’t talking about cap-and-trade. He was talking about excessive pollution from some power plants, citing an aging coal-fired plant which was spewing pollutants in the densely populated state of Massachusetts. Carbon dioxide was only one of the substances regulated to ensure the plants were not excessively polluting.

The problem wasn’t that the plants were producing too much energy, but that they were producing energy inefficiently and thus polluting excessively.

Rick Perry is not only being dishonest but hypocritical, as he boasts on his official website:

“The need for clean air is something we all can agree on … The federal Clean Air Act falls short of Texas standards. The federal system allows older plants to be “grandfathered” without requiring or encouraging upgrades to air quality equipment. That’s why aging, inefficient facilities in other parts of the country continue to chug along, spewing out pollution using environmental technology many decades old, mostly in areas now – ironically – considered “in full compliance” with the federal Clean Air Act.”

Rick Perry also took an implied swipe at Romney in a speech, saying, “Massachusetts was one of the first states to implement its own cap and trade program.” Perry let the false implication against Romney stand without mentioning that the program was enacted under Governor Patrick, not Governor Romney. Romney said no to the regional climate change agreement, after researching its impact on business.

Perry’s position on Global Warming seems similar to Romney’s. Both apparently accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and contributes some to the warming effect, and both believe that fact is insufficient reason to hurt businesses.

Perry said, at the Reagan Library debate:

“The fact of the matter is, the science is not settled on whether or not the climate change is being impacted by man to the point where we’re going to put America’s economics in jeopardy.”

Here’s a sample of what Romney said, in his hardcover, pages 227-230:

“I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control. I do not support radical feel-good policies … Of course, there are also reasons for skepticism. The earth may be getting warmer, but there have been numerous times in the earth’s history when temperatures have been warmer than they are now … If developing nations won’t curb emissions, even extreme mitigation measures taken by the United States and other developed nations will have no appreciable effect on slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The next Perry smear:

Notice that Perry does not display the complete sentence, let alone the complete paragraph. Instead, he shows it in the context of the previous paragraph. But even from that previous paragraph, you can see that Romney was talking about the tax cut portion of the stimulus, having put it in that context in the previous line by stating that congressional Democrats fail to understand “the crucial role played by tax cuts.” It is in this context that Romney said the stimulus would not help “as much as it could have,” and this is clear when we actually see the whole sentence and paragraph from the hardcover, p. 144-145:

“The all-Democrat stimulus that was passed in early 2009 will accelerate the timing of the recovery, but not as much as it could have had it included genuine tax- and job-generating incentives. President Obama and his economic team said their stimulus would hold unemployment below 8 percent, but unemployment soared well above that level. Not only has the 2009 package already been far less than successful, it will impose a heavy burden on the economy in the intermediate and long-term.”

The Perry video also claims a “FLIP FLOP” because Romney added in the paperback version that the stimulus had “failed.” In reality, Romney wrote the hardcover during the initial phase of the stimulus and thus could not yet claim that it had “failed,” but could only say it had “already been far less than successful.”

Perry also fails to mention that on page 31 of the hardcover, Romney says “the record and achievement of modern free-market capitalism” is “now at risk because of the economic policies of President Obama.” Romney goes on to say, “His effort to expand the size, reach and role of government is without precedent in our history. His plans would leave us with a crushing deficit and debt, far beyond anything we have ever experienced.” Also on page 31, Romney writes that “at a time when Europe is moving away from socialism and its many failures, President Obama is moving toward that direction.”

Here’s the remaining Perry smear video:

Let’s look closer at what Romney actually said:

                                                               click to enlarge

Yes, Romney says on the same page that he wants each state to fashion a plan to meet the “distinct needs of its citizens.” In context, we can see that when he gets to the line about accomplishing something for the whole country, he really is referring to “something people have been talking about for decades,” which obviously isn’t his own health care plan which had only been around a few years, not decades. He was talking about “portable, affordable health insurance,” and was not saying his way was the only way to get there. Although it has worked in Massachusetts, as we discussed in Part I of this letter.

Romney has always maintained this position, even before announcing his first Presidential bid. For instance, in 2006 Mitt Romney said this on Meet the Press: “There are certain aspects of it that I think would work across the country, perhaps better in some states than others. Of course the great thing about federalism is you let a state try it and see how it works before you spread it out.”

And so we see that all of Perry’s attacks are smears. Romney is not completely blameless himself, but has not distorted Perry’s words. The worst thing Romney has done is point out the high unemployment rate in Texas, which is accurate but attributable to the national employment crisis. But Perry set the tone for that, when he drew first blood against Romney by attacking the number of jobs created in Massachusetts, even though Massachusetts had a low unemployment rate under Romney and is one of the smallest, most densely populated States in the Union and therefore is largely saturated with jobs and people, unlike larger states which have room for sprawl. Texas is a huge, centrally located hub with lots of space and cheap land.

Perry even compared the number of jobs created under Romney with those created under Dukakis even though Dukakis was governor at a time when women were starting to enter the workforce in unprecedented numbers which enlarged the pool of potential employees just like people moving into Texas has done. So, if Perry wants to take credit and assign blame based the raw numbers with no context, his own record looks bad, and that’s what Romney points out.

If people had seen only Perry’s video smears, not knowing the actual context, they might have thought they knew the “real” Romney. But, like liberals, they would have “known so much that isn’t so.” And that’s the way it is with a lot of other attacks against Romney.

This time we are focusing our attention on abortion. In future diaries we will cover taxes and fees, gay marriage, gun control and all the other issues

The reader may have a list of things they’ve heard, on a range of issues. But if you are to judge Mitt objectively, you must focus. We cannot discuss all issues at the same time, so don’t use your beliefs about where Mitt stands on other issues to dismiss his authenticity on the issue under discussion.

I see at least two facts to objectively indicate Mitt’s abortion position is authentic. First, he refused to be called pro-choice when that label would have helped him while he ran in MA in 1994 and also in 2002. In 1999, Romney said, “I am in favor of the women of America having the opportunity to make the right choice by providing support and care for those who want to take the child to full term and put it up for adoption.” When he first announced he was running in 1994, he could have easily claimed to be pro-choice. Instead, he said he had counseled women to not have abortions and personally opposed abortion but as far as laws were concerned he believed abortion should be legal. He has characterized his position as “effectively pro-choice,” but he always differed ideologically with the pro-choice movement (Critics can find only one quote where Romney, in a single instance and with other people talking over him in a televised 2007 debate, left out the word ‘effective’ when explaining what his position had been: “I was pro-choice. I am pro-life. I changed my position.” But Romney has explained his “effectively pro-choice” position many times, and only once misspoke, so Romney is justified when he says, “I never said I was pro-choice”). Second, when Romney became pro-life he didn’t just grab a list of things someone is supposed to say in order to appear pro-life. Rather, he took it issue by issue, starting with Roe.

In neither of these cases did he do the politically expedient thing.

Yes, you could point out that Mitt’s conversion took place two years before he ran for president. However, this ignores the larger context because this was also the first time Romney faced the issue in public office. Mitt Romney had spent his life in the private sector, not in politics. His experiences with abortion consisted of personal encounters with women, and he counseled them against abortion. In one case, as an LDS Bishop, Romney “showed up unannounced at the hospital, warning her sternly not to go forward.” If abortion had been illegal, he may never have had a chance to speak with these pregnant women in the first place. And it is difficult to overstate how important that was to Mitt, since he did not have a chance to counsel his dear relative who died from an illegal abortion in 1967. The law did not stop her, it only scared her into keeping it secret. Romney undoubtedly asked himself what he could have done if he had known. And calling the police to have her arrested probably didn’t seem as effective as putting his arm around her, letting her cry and open up, offering support and telling her what a wonderful mother she was going to make. Mitt saw the sinister underground abortion industry which killed young girls as well as unborn children. And he saw that the laws against abortion failed to stop it from happening because it happens behind closed doors, and the unborn victims have no official record of ever existing. The sad elephant in the room is that no law can stop abortion, just as no law can stop suicide. That’s the epiphany Romney had in 1967, which the pro-life movement has not had. But Mitt had an even greater epiphany as Governor. He saw that the legalization of abortion had cheapened the value of unborn life and was hurting the ideological fight. He toured embryonic research facilities and met with researchers where he saw this first-hand. When a bill came to his desk to make a “morning after” pill more available, he vetoed it and wrote an Op-Ed explaining that his views had evolved and that “the starting point should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.”

After the veto, critics claimed Romney had broken a campaign promise. During the campaign he had answered “yes” on a questionnaire asking if he would expand access to so-called “emergency contraception.” However, at the time he filled out the questionnaire he took it at it’s word that it was referring to “contraception” rather than “contragestion,” meaning the prevention of the embryo from implanting in the uterus. But Mitt had since done more research as to how such things work. When asked by reporters about the veto, Mitt said, “I do support expansion of emergency contraception; I have no problem with emergency contraception. This product not only does that, but in some cases terminates life after conception. In that case, it ceases to be an emergency contraception bill and becomes an emergency abortion bill.”

Now on to the questions.

*Didn’t Romney force private hospitals to provide morning after pills to rape victims? No, the legislature did. Romney tried to find a way out but in the end was forced to comply with the law just as every other governor has had to enable abortion in their states, including Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry. Romney vetoed the legislation and the legislature overrode Romney’s veto, after which Romney tried to make an exemption for private hospitals by citing a conscience clause in state law. However, two factors prevented Romney from successfully crafting the exemption: first, the legislature has authority to supersede previous laws with new laws, and second, the clear intent of the legislature was for this bill to supersede any contradictory statutes or provisions – not to work in harmony with the older statute, which Romney would have had to argue disingenuously in court were he to challenge the intended effect of the law. It was in this context that Romney told the Department of Public Health they had to enforce the intent of the law even though he disagreed with it. Romney believes that in the case of rape a woman should be able to take a “morning after pill,” but he also believes the state should not force private hospitals to offer such pills, even to rape victims.

*What about Romney signing a bill in October 2005 to expand family planning services, including “emergency contraception?” First, Romney had vetoed the waiver application two years earlier but even without the waiver the state was still covering these “family planning services,” spending five million dollars each year for those who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. The waiver was largely for federal reimbursement for treatment already being provided. To put this in perspective we should note that most states, including Texas (See here, or even just here), allow Title X federal funds, which cover “emergency contraception.” That’s not the same program as the waiver, but the effect is the same in that federal funds pay for emergency contraception. We might also note that President George W. Bush and his Republican Congress continued this federal funding.

Second, in October of 2005 Romney was negotiating with the Massachusetts legislature on his health care plan which would make the provisions of the waiver moot. Behind the scenes, Romney had approval from the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to take the funds which the federal government provides to states and divert them to the health care plan (“Romneycare”) he was working on. So, Romney applied for all of the funds offered, with the understanding that those funds would be rolled over into helping poor people purchase private insurace (and Romney insisted on having everyone pay something, but his successor and the legislature later changed that so some people are given insurance for free).

*But didn’t Romney’s health care bill include $50 abortion copays? No, the bill does not mention abortion. Blaming the co-pay on Romney is a bit like blaming the founding fathers for Roe v Wade, since the Constitution created the Supreme Court. The truth is, the bill Romney signed does not say anything about abortion but creates an independent agency called the “Connector” which sets the co-pay amount.

Moreover, two MA court decisions require state programs to cover abortion. Some critics claim that the court decisions were not legally binding, since the decisions were not codified into law. However, this attempted criticism could be applied as easily to Roe v Wade itself, as many states have not codified it into law, yet adhere to it, understanding that even though it could be called a “mere” declaratory opinion it sets precedent under Stare Decisis. In other words, the actual “judgment” of Roe v Wade was technically only about one plaintiff and one defendant, but the “opinion” is understood to have sweeping ramifications in all similar cases. Critics also claim that the term “medically necessary abortions” used in the court decisions only applies to abortions where the life of the mother is in jeopardy. Again, this is incorrect. “Medically necessary” is widely interpreted to mean treatment provided for any non-cosmetic, non-recreational reason. It applies to pain, and therefore applies to any pregnant woman seeking an abortion, since women are naturally pained or expected to become pained physically or psychologically as a result of a pregnancy.

In addition to having their facts wrong, critics are missing the point. Abortion in Massachusetts has declined since the health care bill passed. Between 1991 and 2005 U.S. abortion rates had steadily declined, according to a comprehensive study by the Guttmacher Institute. But that trend has changed. Between 2005 and the most recent available figures (2008), the U.S. abortion rate rose from 19.4 to 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women (aged 15-44). However, Massachusetts is bucking the national trend. In 2005, Massachusetts had a rate of 19.9. In 2006, Romney signed his health care bill. In 2007, the Massachusetts abortion rate dropped to 19.0. In 2008, the Massachusetts abortion rate further dropped to 18.3.

Being pro-life is about saving unborn children, not saving money. A full priced abortion (about 500 dollars) is not a financial deterrent to abortion, because a much more costly full-priced delivery is by far a bigger financial deterrent to giving live birth. The trade-off Romney got for allowing the Connector to set co-pay amounts is the ability to assure pregnant women that their pre-natal care, their delivery costs and the future health care needs of their children are all safely taken care of because they are insured. Therefore, they no longer have a financial deterrent to bringing their child into the world. And Romney’s strategy has worked.

Some might claim that Romney secretly thought his bill would incentivize abortion. However, the reduction shows it did not incentivize abortion, and that line of attack does not bear out with the approach Romney takes to solving problems. Romney explains in his book, “We would add data–a lot of data, so much, in fact, that I wasn’t comfortable until I had been fully immersed in it.” He also tells the story of a single mom he personally knew who had cancer in remission and couldn’t find work because “employers didn’t want someone with her health costs in their insurance pool … as governor, I was in a position to do something about it.” So he understood the burden this mom was carrying by not having insurance, and thus understood the concern a woman would have about bringing a child into the world without insurance. And Mitt undoubtedly has wondered if bringing a child into the world without being able to provide for that child’s needs may have been the concern his relative had before dying at such a young age from an illegal abortion. I think Mitt understood better than most what the real effect of his health care plan would be, and that effect has been to save lives.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be great is to be misunderstood.” Weak minds always criticize great minds, and Romney’s health care plan bears that out. Those who don’t understand the effect of his plan can’t argue with the reduction in abortion, they can only make superficial arguments about charging money.

*But didn’t Romney’s bill give Planned Parenthood a seat on a major board? No, it was a healthcare payment policy advisory board, and as the name of the board implies, the purpose of the board is simply to gather financial data on medical costs for the state’s use. The board has no policy purvue and includes representatives from all the major medical groups, so excluding Planned Parenthood would have been impractical. Allowing the legislature to include Planned Parenthood on the board is not a concession of morality pertaining to abortion, but a concession of the reality of current state of the law pertaining to abortion.

*But doesn’t Romney want to donate surplus in-vitro fertilization embryos to scientific research? Romney wants the embryos to be adopted. But when that doesn’t happen they are simply destroyed. Just as parents who take their children off life support can donate their organs to save other lives, Romney wants parents to be able to donate their embryos which would otherwise be destroyed, to stem cell research, reducing the number of new embryos created for research. The decision to take a life, whether a child on life support or embryos which have no chance of survival, is tragic. Mitt does not like the options but believes this is better than the alternative.

*But in 1994, didn’t Romney push for federal funding of abortion and codification of Roe v. Wade? We are of course interested in Romney’s actual position during the campaign, taken completely in context. However, in the only quote from Romney available, he said, “I am not in favor of government funding of abortion.” Statements made by a campaign adviser named Charles Manning, who was a friend but not a spokesman, indicate that Romney’s position was open to some compromise. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to the type of direct statement from Romney which would allow us to judge his position fairly. We don’t know exactly what Romney said or what he said it in response to. But we do have a quote from the Boston Herald on Oct. 10, 1994 which indicates that whatever Mitt did say was in the context of placing limits on how far he was willing to go. To wit, this was not Mitt trying to push abortion, but in fact was Mitt setting boundaries. This only demonstrates his ideological disagreement with the pro-choice movement, and lends further insight into his refusal to be called “pro-choice.” According to the Herald, “Romney has said he would support the Freedom of Choice Act with two qualifications: as long as it did not go beyond codifying Roe v. Wade and as long as it leaves it to states to decide on using federal funds for abortion.”

*Why did Mitt’s wife, Ann, donate 150 dollars to Planned Parenthood in 1994? That does sound bad knowing what we do about Planned Parenthood. But this was ’94, before the internet, in a liberal state. The propaganda put out by PP and by the media downplayed abortion and portrayed PP as a safe place where women can turn for resources and counseling. The facts were presented in pro-life literature, but were not widely available. For example, Ronald Reagan never even mentioned Planned Parenthood. So before judging Ann Romney, consider “Race for the Cure.” How many people realize that when they donate to “Race for the Cure” they are giving a chunk of money to Planned Parenthood? Furthermore, Romney at the time was trying to minimize the political damage of his anti-abortion views by emphasizing the legal similarities between his view and the views held more widely in Massachusetts. The donation was made during a campaign stop at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. Ann Romney has indicated the check may have been to cover an entrance fee. This does not justify the donation, which was clearly unfortunate, but does indicate Ann was trying to be courteous on the campaign trail.

*Why did Mitt appear so adamant about protecting the pro-choice laws, in the ’94/’02 videos? That was in the context of critcs questioning him because of his personal opposition to abortion and his refusal to be called “pro-choice.” His opponents were claiming that since he was opposed to abortion he couldn’t be trusted. So he was making clear that if elected he would not change their laws. That is important because Mitt did not want to push the abortion laws further, and his pledge allowed him to veto pro-abortion legislation. People who show the video clips usually leave out the context. For instance, the 1994 video with Ted Kennedy leaves out the full question from the moderator. The question was, “Mr. Romney, you personally oppose abortion and as a church leader have advised women not to have an abortion. Given that, how could you in good conscience support a law that enables women to have an abortion, and even lets the Government pay for it? If abortion is morally wrong, aren’t you responsible for discouraging it?”

*But what about the video of Mitt in 2005 promising not to change the law in Massachusetts? Mitt reminded MA that his campaign pledge was to not change their abortion laws. That video was two months before he announced he was pro-life, so Romney was evidently making sure they understood exactly what he had promised during the campaign. That way he would be free to veto pro-choice legislation, without being accused of breaking his campaign promise. He never promised to make the laws more abortion friendly. This was a pro-life strategy because in liberal MA he would not be able to dent the pro-choice laws or pass any type of pro-life law, which he understood when he first made the promise in each campaign.

*Why did Mitt state at the Palmetto freedom forum that he wouldn’t use the 14th amendment to push anti-abortion legislation? Because the Supreme Court addressed that in Roe, stating: “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.” What type of chaos could this create? First, criminal proceedings for abortionists would go through the court system. So defying the Supreme Court, which overrules all other courts, accomplishes nothing. Anarchy does not protect the unborn.

*Why did Romney not sign the Susan B. Anthony List pledge? Because it does not take enough factors into account. As the pledge is written, it would require Romney to defund an entire hospital even if the only time that hospital performs abortion is to save the life of a mother. It is not necessary to defund entire hospitals in order to defund abortion. Laws can be written to regulate how hospitals divert government funds. The other problem with the pledge is that it would prevent him from considering all factors when making non-judicial appointments. For instance, he could not appoint Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General. In 2008, Texas Governor Rick Perry endorsed Giuliani for the office of President, which is obviously much more significant than a DOJ appointment. But we wouldn’t accuse Perry of not being pro-life. In the same vein, wanting the freedom to make exceptions does not put Romney at odds with the ideology behind the pledge. If Mitt wanted to pander, he could have signed the pledge. But he instead wrote out his own pro-life pledge.

*But didn’t Mitt appoint a pro-choice judge? Again, Giuliani is pro-choice, and Rick Perry wanted to “appoint” Rudy to the most powerful office in the world, not just as a district court judge. I realize critics claim Romney is not conservative because he did not have a Republican litmus test in his selection of judicial nominees. However, almost all of Romney’s appointments, 30 out of 36, were to lower court positions where judges deal directly with criminals at the district and magistrate levels. Rather than political affiliation, Romney looked for effective prosecutorial experience and a record of being tough on crime. As Romney explained when asked about it, “people on both sides of the aisle want to put the bad guys away.” Rick Perry himself illustrates that fact, as he used to be a Democrat but has always been strong on crime and the death penalty.

Romney explained that even though he had only a few chances to appoint judges to higher courts, and no chances to appoint anyone to the MA Supreme Judicial Court, in those cases the criteria changes to include “strict construction, judicial philosophy,” which he adhered to in those appointments. In all, only 12.5% of registered voters in Massachusetts are Republican and Romney’s 9 Republican nominees count for 25% of his total judicial appointments, representing Republicans twice as well as they are represented in the general voting public. But more important than political affiliation, Romney’s appointments represent the relevant conservative qualifications.

*But didn’t Mitt tell an abortion rights organization that they “could use someone like me in Washington?” That claim was found on notes someone took during a meeting, but they did not include any context. And as the reader should understand by now, Romney takes a comprehensive view of issues and is often misunderstood.

*But isn’t the life question a simple yes or no?

It is much more complicated than that. Does being pro-life mean the government charges women who have abortions with murder, and then seeks the death penalty? Rick Santorum says no (“I’ve never supported criminalization of abortion for mothers, but I do for people who perform them”) but does that mean Rick Santorum doesn’t think it’s a baby?

If someone believes a woman should be charged with murder, does that make them more pro-life? Who has the authority to declare that?

Because his position was not like any other, Romney did not feel that he could call himself “pro-life.” But at the same time, as he has repeatedly explained, he chose to not be called “pro-choice.” For instance, he said, “Over the last multiple years, as you know, I have been effectively pro-choice. I never called myself that (pro-choice) as a label but I was effectively pro-choice and that followed a personal experience in my extended family that led to that conclusion.” Romney also said: “I never called myself pro-choice. I never allowed myself to use the word ‘pro-choice,’ because I didn’t feel I was pro-choice. I would protect the law, I said, as it was, but I wasn’t pro-choice.”

Discussing his aforementioned conversion, Romney explained: “It struck me very powerfully at that point that the Roe v. Wade approach has so cheapened the value of human life that somebody could think it’s not a moral issue to destroy embryos.” To Romney, it had always been a moral issue. His struggle related to the role of government. Romney said “I’ve always been personally pro-life, but for me, it was a great question about whether or not government should intrude in that decision.”

I realize it is easy to judge Mitt. But it is harder to look at oneself in the mirror. For instance, the group “American Right To Life” (not to be confused with the more mainstream “National Right To Life”), is fond of accusing people of being pro-abortion, including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, John McCain, Sam Alito, John Roberts, even Antonin Scalia. But does ARTL realize it has the word “American” in it’s title? Does it not realize that the vast majority of unborn children are not in America? http://prolifeprofiles.com/tier4

Those of us who are pro-life believe protecting unborn children is a legitimate role of federal and state government. However, everyone seems to agree that the pro-life responsibility of government only applies to a small fraction of unborn children: those living in our country. No conservatives, including those in the current crop of GOP candidates, advocate declaring war on other nations to save unborn children. Not even to save those unborn children in our own neighboring nations, Canada and Mexico, both of which we could easily invade. The quick observer might ask: if slavery merited war, why does abortion not? Indeed, while our Constitution requires us to respect Supreme Court decisions such as Roe, it does not require us to respect other nations. It places no limits on our potential reasons for declaring war. We may very well have an easier time changing abortion laws in various other countries than passing a human life amendment in our own.

So people attack Mitt, yet when it comes to fighting for the vast majority of unborn children, these ostensibly “true” pro-lifers are content with unceremonious and ineffective attempts at winning hearts and minds. They may be “personally” pro-life but with respect to most pregnant women, their position is “effectively” pro-choice.

He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone at Mitt Romney’s change from personally pro-life (“effectively pro-choice”) to more “conventionally” pro-life.

Perhaps Romney’s critics might justify their own “globally pro-choice” position by calling it a practical necessity. Perhaps they might not feel it is our government’s business to tell women around the world what to do. Okay, that’s fine. But don’t turn around and criticize Mitt Romney for likewise grappling with the role of government.

Some of Romney’s harshest critics presume to speak for God on the role of government pertaining to unborn life. But neither Jesus nor his Apostles gave commandments concerning the role of our government. Jesus said his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), never saying how man’s government should enforce his laws. Some might cite the Law of Moses, which does indeed explain the role of Israelite government. However, it requires capital punishment for adultery, with no exception or provision for the possibility that the woman may have become pregnant as a result of the adultery or may have already been pregnant. Thus, God’s law as given to Moses did not acknowledge rights for unborn children of adulterers (Deuteronomy 22: 22-24). In short, Moses would be “pro-abortion” by the standards of the ARTL. But nothing in scripture provides grounds for criticizing any position Romney has taken concerning the role of government.

So, what is the “pro-life position?” The question is not just about recognizing unborn life. It’s about the best way to protect that unborn life. And here’s the problem Romney faced. If we prosecute people who perform abortion, that drives abortion underground like alcohol during prohibition. The logistics of trying to stop abortion are nearly impossible because the victim has no record of ever existing – and unfortunately miscarriage is very common so even if someone knows that a woman was pregnant it’s very difficult to prove an abortion took place and even more difficult to then track down whoever performed the abortion. So Mitt thought the solution would be changing hearts and minds and that it would be easier to do that without an underground abortion industry.

In the end, criticisms of Romney do not diminish his pro-life ideology. We give our military leaders leeway to use different strategies in different terrain. We must give our political leaders that same leeway as they fight for conservatism in liberal terrain like Massachusetts.

On February 9, 1983, when Ronald Reagan was asked about people who said he was “moving away from the policies and principles” that got him elected, Reagan responded by explaining that compromise is not retreat: “I’m not retreating an inch from where I was. But I also recognize this: There are some people who would have you so stand on principle that if you don’t get all that you’ve asked for from the legislature, why, you jump off the cliff with the flag flying. I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want. So, I think what they’ve misread is times in which I have compromised.”

Indeed, if there is a gold standard for the pro-life movement, that standard is Ronald Reagan. But in his last two years as President, Reagan had to compromise with a Democratic Senate on his judicial appointments. Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court, even though Kennedy showed clear signs of being pro-choice, by citing Roe v Wade favorably and expressing a belief in a constitutional right to privacy. With the new Democratic Senate, Reagan could not appoint a clear conservative to the Supreme Court and had to compromise with a nominee the Senate would confirm.

Reagan had first nominated a clear pro-life conservative, Robert Bork, for the seat which ultimately became occupied by Anthony Kennedy. Announcing the nomination on July 1, 1987, Reagan remarked, “Judge Bork is recognized as a premier constitutional authority. His outstanding intellect and unrivaled scholarly credentials are reflected in his thoughtful examination of the broad, fundamental legal issues of our times.”

However, the late Senator Ted Kennedy was noted for leading a strong opposition to Bork in the Senate. Ted Kennedy was Senator from Massachusetts, where he reflected the climate Romney worked in as governor of that state.

Bork, who knows from firsthand experience what Romney faced in “Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts,” endorsed Mitt Romney for President in both 2007 and 2011 and currently serves as chief of Romney’s legal advisory council.