Redefining Spineless: Mitt Romney on Abortion

Andrea Lynch

Mitt Romney makes me sick, and not just because he hasn't stopped hating on my home state of Massachusetts since he shed the governor's mantle in favor of a shiny new presidential hopeful suit. I'm sorry, but the man has no integrity, and if so-called "values voters" wind up voting him into office, then we will finally have definitive proof that they do not know what the word "values" means.

A quick review of the flip-flopping—more worthy of a freshly caught fish than a man who honestly believes he has the credibility to run for president—that has characterized Romney's political career. Our story begins in 1994, during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. During a debate with staunchly pro-choice opponent Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Romney made the following statements on abortion:

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country."

"We should sustain and support [Roe v. Wade] and the right of a woman to make that choice."

"I do not impose my beliefs on other people."

"You will not see me wavering on that."

Mitt Romney makes me sick, and not just because he hasn't stopped hating on my home state of Massachusetts since he shed the governor's mantle in favor of a shiny new presidential hopeful suit. I'm sorry, but the man has no integrity, and if so-called "values voters" wind up voting him into office, then we will finally have definitive proof that they do not know what the word "values" means.

A quick review of the flip-flopping—more worthy of a freshly caught fish than a man who honestly believes he has the credibility to run for president—that has characterized Romney's political career. Our story begins in 1994, during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. During a debate with staunchly pro-choice opponent Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Romney made the following statements on abortion:

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country."

"We should sustain and support [Roe v. Wade] and the right of a woman to make that choice."

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"I do not impose my beliefs on other people."

"You will not see me wavering on that."

Despite arguing that he had more liberal cred on abortion (not to mention gay rights and workplace discrimination) than Ted Kennedy himself, Romney went on to lose that senate race, and took a break from Massachusetts politics for a few years. Then, in 2002, he was back, running for governor as a self-styled Republican moderate against Democratic candidate Shannon O'Brien. While debating O'Brien, he lamented the inadequacy of both the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" to describe the staggering complexity of his views on abortion, stating once again that "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard." He vowed publicly not to change any of Massachusetts' pro-choice laws during his tenure as governor. He also made clear, in his answers to a Planned Parenthood candidate questionnaire, that he supported Roe v. Wade, state funding of abortion services through Medicaid, and efforts to increase access to emergency contraception. Hmmm. Sounds like "pro-choice" is the word you're searching for, Mitt.

Or was it? Apparently, one's deeply held beliefs can change a lot in a few years, especially when one decides to run for president in a country where the rabidly intolerant constitute an important political constituency. Romney went on to become governor of Massachusetts, and in 2005, to the consternation of the authors of Planned Parenthood's candidate questionnaire, he proceeded to "impose his beliefs" on Massachusetts women, vetoing legislation that would have increased access to emergency contraception in that state (luckily, the Mass. legislature prevailed). In an op-ed in the Boston Globe published the next day, Romney helpfully informed Massachusetts residents that "I have not attempted to impose my own views on the prochoice majority," going on to clarify his views on abortion (never mind that the bill was about EC, not abortion, which, by the way, aren't the same thing): "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." But wait, I thought Romney wasn't pro-life or pro-choice?

Luckily, there's an explanation for everything. It turns out that—at least according to his top political advisor—Romney was just "faking it" with all that pro-choice stuff back in 2002 (and 1994), doing what was necessary to get elected in the abortion-loving, gay-people-accepting, Godless state of Massachussets. Well that's certainly reassuring! Of course, credulous pro-lifers willing to stand up for fakery are never hard to find, even if a few years ago you attributed your "unwavering" belief in a woman's right to choose to your own scarring personal experience of a "close family relative" dying tragically from an illegal abortion. Evelyn Reilly of the Massachusetts Family Institute was more than willing to give Romney the benefit of the doubt, telling the Boston Globe that: "I think his understanding of the beginning of human life has grown and deepened, probably as a result of the stem-cell issue." Hmm. Want to know what I think, Evelyn?

Of course, now that Romney has thrown off the ideological shackles of his pesky Massachusetts governorship, he's free to share his real views on the abortion issue. And it turns out he's definitely…(hold on while he sticks his finger in the prevailing conservative wind one last time) … pro-life! In fact, he's not just pro-life; according to his website, he is also "committed to traditional marriage and family," based on the belief that "marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman." Have we mentioned that "When Governor Romney has addressed life issues he has sided on life," and that "These have been his positions in Massachusetts and will be his positions as President"? That last one is particularly worth including, since Romney's word on the unwavering nature of his political positions is worth so much at this point. In the "values" section of his website (you can find it in "Issue Watch," under "Defeating the Jihadists" and "Competing with Asia," also top priorities), he dutifully quote himself in the Boston Globe, stating that "I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." Confronted with video footage of the diametrically opposed statements on abortion he uttered several years earlier, Romney posted the lamest explanation ever on YouTube, essentially arguing that all of this stuff is "so 1994."

Ah, Romney! Ah, humanity! I think we can agree that this has now officially moved beyond the realm of abortion, and into the realm of integrity, pure and simple. And if all of the above doesn't constitute enough rope to hang this guy as a potential presidential candidate, then I'm definitely moving to Canada this time.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

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