The Evolution Theory: Mitt Romney, Republicans & Abortion

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September 7, 2012 by Nash Riggins

The release of the Republican Party’s official 2012 platform last week introduced several key controversial stances on social issues which seek to solidify the party as a unified voting block; however, it continues to remain unclear whether the Republican Presidential Nominee wholly agrees or disagrees with said policies.

Following the tactless and unscientific remarks made by Missouri Republican and US Senate candidate Todd Akin regarding “legitimate rape” earlier last month, it should hardly be surprising that the Republican Party’s hard-line stance on abortion has once more surfaced as a defining social issue in the American policy-agenda.

According to the party’s platform, Republicans “assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” In short, the platform seeks to outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for cases of rape or incest – yet the Republican Party’s Presidential Nominee does not necessarily agree with said platform.

Indeed, Mitt Romney’s stance on abortion has evolved in polar directions throughout the past 20 years. The former governor’s public track record on abortion begins in 1993, as Mr Romney was preparing to challenge Edward Kennedy for his seat in the US Senate – during which time he told members of the Mormon Church that, while he was personally opposed to abortion, he was willing to let women choose for themselves. Romney was unsuccessful in the election, yet he was able to solidify his image as a very progressive Republican, which would go on to aid greatly in his campaign for governor ten years later.

In his bid to become the Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney reaffirmed his 1993 convictions, stating that if elected he would embody a “pro-choice” governor, and would “preserve a woman’s right to choose”; however, subsequent to his successful campaign, Governor Romney’s personal views spiralled. Following his election, Romney firmly opposed any further liberalisation of abortion in Massachusetts, yet also became a firm advocate of so-called “emergency abortions.” In 2005, Romney affirmed that his anti-abortion views had “evolved and deepened”, and that he was now firmly pro-life – in his final year as Massachusetts’ Governor, Romney elaborated by stating that it was ‘cloning’ and stem cell research that had hardened his stance on abortion.

Despite the latter, Romney ended his stint as governor by keeping his election promise not to change any laws on abortion in Massachusetts. In fact, Mr Romney’s government-subsidised healthcare programme – the blueprint for President Barack Obama’s system that would follow years later – included a stipulation regarding the legitimacy and legality of state-funded abortion.

After serving as the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney’s track record on abortion continued to evolve. As his latest bid for America’s presidency began to solidify, Romney stated in November 2011 that “contraception is a personal choice.” As the race for the Republican Presidential Nominee heated up in January, Romney asserted that states shouldn’t ban contraception, but recognised that “scientifically, life begins at conception.”

Since securing his party’s nomination, Romney has attempted to shift his feelings regarding abortion out of the limelight – in particular, his key stance on the legitimacy of abortion in situations such as rape and incest, which account for around 32,000 terminated pregnancies every year.

In addition to Mr Romney’s relatively progressive track-record with regards to abortion, he also differs in action from the Republican Party’s official 2012 stance on streamlining the amount of embryonic stem cell research being conducted in America’s laboratories. As Governor of Massachusetts, Mr Romney oversaw legislation that loosened restrictions on the controversial research. Moreover, in November 2011 Mr Romney stated that stem-cell research was okay, so long as it is privately funded; however just two months later, Romney asserted that stem cell research is completely immoral under all circumstances, and that it “breaches an ethical boundary.”

The Republican Party has undoubtedly emerged in 2012 with the most conservative platform in recent history; however, the party has simultaneously and undoubtedly failed to emerge with the most conservative candidate for presidency – or even the fourth or fifth most, for that matter. Mr Romney’s stance on one of America’s most bitterly debated social issues has evolved in polar directions throughout the past 20 years; therefore, if hindsight can teach us anything, it is that Americans should not be the least bit surprised if Mr Romney’s views towards abortion change once more prior to November 6.

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