Romney’s Own Words On Abortion

In the most startling item of the day (so far!), BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins and Andrew Kaczynski directly accuse the Obama campaign of wrongly attributing to Mitt Romney a desire to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” and “outlaw abortion.” Not true, they say: Romney’s only called for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and hasn’t called for a federal ban on abortions.

The best witness for the Obama campaign’s case is Mitt Romney. The “get rid of Planned Parenthood” charge is a direct quote from Romney in an interview in Missouri last month. No, he didn’t explain exactly how he’d “get rid” of the group, but that’s hardly the Obama campaign’s problem.

More interesting is the claim that Mitt just wants to let states determine abortion policy, like they did in the good old days before Roe v. Wade. As it happens, just yesterday I quoted from a statement Romney made on his campaign web site explaining his refusal to sign the “pledge” proferred by the Susan B. Anthony List (whose spokesperson, interestingly enough, was quoted in the BuzzFeed article vouching for Mitt’s less-than-perfect anti-choice zealotry). Here’s how it begins:

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Is it possible that “should be limited” means anything other than “outlaw?” I don’t think so.

As for the question of which level of government should do the outlawing, there’s this statement which appears to accept SBAL’s demand that candidates support both federal and state action to ban abortions after about 20 weeks of pregnancy:

I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

Pretty sure that’s a direct commitment to federal action to implement the most extreme abortion ban that anti-choice advocates have advanced as theoretically congruent with existing constitutional law.

Since nobody’s arguing that Romney is anything less than fully committed to the reversal of Roe, and he favors “limiting” abortion to all but a few rare cases, and he supports a federal law “limiting” abortions as far as anyone could consider feasible until such time as Roe is indeed reversed–it sure looks to me like this adds up to an agenda of “outlawing abortion” by hook or by crook.

The BuzzFeed writers try to make a big deal out of Romney’s refusal to endorse a Human Life Amendment to read fetal personhood right into the Constitution, bypassing the courts. You don’t have to be a supporter of legal abortion, of course, to have issues with an Amendment that might well outlaw major forms of contraception, and in any event, no one, absolutely no one, thinks there is a snowball’s chance in hell of enacting any controversial constitututional amendment these days, given the immense obstacles posed by the ratification process.

It seems entirely fair to me to suggest that Romney favors an agenda for “outlawing abortion” as fast as possible, and wherever possible, which is exactly what he says he wants to do. Sure, he can’t wave a magic wand and outlaw abortion overnight, but if that’s the objection to the Obama campaign’s statement, I’d say every campaign communication taking opponents’ policy commitments seriously crosses this line.

Lord knows Romney has been slippery as a bucket of eels on the abortion issue throughout his career; Will Saletan’s recent account of Mitt’s various positions reads like a cross between a mystery novel and the translation of ancient texts.

But as he’s spent most of the last two presidential campaigns trying to establish, the man is now firmly anti-choice, and suggesting there is reasonable doubt he’ll do anything less than everything within his power to limit reproductive rights is just plain unreasonable.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.