More Bobbing and Weaving on Abortion

Strangely enough, Mitt Romney’s ever-slippery position on abortion policy, one of the enduringly shameful features of his entire public career, is at the center of an argument that the mean old Obama campaign and the mean old Democrats are lying about Mitt’s positions and denying him his proper mantle of moderate conservatism.

Kevin Drum’s not having any of that:

It’s true that Romney thinks (accurately) that no flat ban on abortion is likely to cross the president’s desk in the near future. So in the sense of trying to figure out what will actually happen over the next four or eight years, it’s probably true that a President Romney wouldn’t have a chance to sign a flat ban on abortion.

But that’s only half of what any election is about. The other half is about what a prospective candidate wants to do. I don’t think the United States will ever return to the gold standard, for example, but the fact that Ron Paul supports it tells me that he’s a crank. That’s reason enough not to vote for him.

Likewise, even if Romney never has the opportunity to sign a nationwide ban on abortion, he’s obviously saying that he’d like to if he ever got the chance. What’s more, Romney probably would get a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade by appointing a Sam Alito clone to the Supreme Court, and he knows very well that this would result in plenty of states flatly banning abortion. This tells me he’s an abortion extremist, and it tells me a lot about who he is. It’s fair game.

Correct. But I’d go further. Aside from Romney’s comment on a hypothetical flat federal abortion ban, which would be obviously unconstitutional until such time as a President Romney stacked the Supreme Court to reverse Roe, he promised in his “My Pro-Life Pledge” ukase published by National Review in the early stages of the nomination fight to “advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.” That would be a federal version of the state legislation being promoted around the country testing the very margins of Roe by banning abortions before an arbitrary point at which a very small minority of scientists and a very large majority of antichoicers claim a fetus can feel pain.

So looking at the big picture, Mitt Romney’s promised to do everything within his power to restrict abortion rights under Roe, and then everything within his power to get it reversed, all within a “pro-life” position that sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t include exceptions for the incredibly tiny percentage of pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or direct threats to the life of the woman involved. And this has been his basic position since 2007, or at least as long as Paul Ryan has refrained from public praise of Ayn Rand as his great mentor and become a self-proclaimed Thomist.

It should also be recalled that Mitt has identified himself unambiguously with the argument of conservative religious figures that the HHS contraception coverage mandate is objectionable because it includes “abortifacients,” reflecting the belief of anti-choice ultras that Plan B, IUDs, and even standard contraceptive pills actually kill human beings.

This does not add up to a “moderate” position on abortion, however Team Mitt tries to bob and weave and play the victim.

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.