(Photo: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
Personhood USA, a pro-life movement seeking to establish rights for unborn babies, is maintaining its position that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney holds a dubious record on abortion. The group believes Romney's actions as governor are evidence that he did not defend the unborn to the full extent of his power.
Responding to a debate over how much control Romney had over pro-abortion bills that were approved while he was governor of Massachusetts between 2003 and 2007, Keith Ashley, a spokesman of Personhood USA, shared with The Christian Post:
"As chief executive of a co-equal branch of state government, Governor Romney was not forced by any court or legislature to sign Romneycare into law with tax-funded abortion. He utilized the veto power eight times in his health care reform bill, but not to defend life. He should have vetoed the abortion section, but even if he had not, he should never have reinterpreted the court's ruling to mean a blanket coverage of all abortion," Ashley shared while providing a link to the 2006 law.
On Romney's claims of being a pro-life candidate, Personhood USA argues that "he attributes his new-found pro-life conviction to his deliberation on, and veto of, a 2004 bill that would have expanded the practice of embryo-destructive research. He then gave the researchers the option of killing human beings of the very same age by using 'surplus' embryos from IVF clinics."
The organization also pointed out that he vetoed a 2005 bill that would have expanded access to the "morning after pill," but three months later, he signed a bill that expanded access to the abortifacient.
"He then ignored the advice of his legal team and issued an executive order requiring Catholic hospitals to administer the drug," Personhood USA added.
The comments come in response to a group of evangelicals who are defending Romney's abortion record. Evangelicals for Mitt – an alliance of Romney supporters not officially aligned with his campaign – argues that he had very limited power as governor to change the abortion requirements in the state.
David French, co-founder of Evangelicals for Mitt, had defended Romney against a previous statement issued by Personhood USA, in which the pro-life organization highlighted Romney's record of signing the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act in 2006 that provided for surgical abortion co-pays.
"He did not have control over public funding of abortion," French said. "That was decided by the Massachusetts supreme court about 20 years ago. Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states in the country, and it decided it's a matter of constitutional law that any publicly funded health care plan was going to include abortion. Any of them. It did before Mitt Romney was governor, it did after Mitt Romney was governor. He had no control over that."
Parenthood USA came out with a response on Thursday, and in another news release argued that Romney was not as powerless as French's assessment suggested.
The pro-life group cited an October 2005 Boston Globe article where Richard Powers, spokesman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, commented on the bill expanding access to the morning after pill that Romney signed into law. "Abortions would not be covered under the waiver. Under a court ruling, they are covered under the state's Medicaid program only when deemed medically necessary," he stated.
Personhood USA asserted, "The court opinions verify Power's statement. Both the 1981 and 1997 decisions instruct the state to pay for what they termed 'medically necessary' and not elective abortion."
Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA, is calling for candidates to not just "say" they are pro-life but to also "act" pro-life.
"Just as the abortion lobby demands that Obama act as pro-abortion as possible, even filing suit when there is a policy disagreement, the pro-life movement must demand definitive answers from candidates identifying as pro-life," he asserted.
In direct response to the pro-life group's news release, French emailed The Christian Post and shared that Romney had impacted the debate on the side of life as much as he could.
"He had no ability to end public funding of abortion -- not just because of the rulings of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which has a very, very broad definition of a 'medically necessary' abortion -- but also because of the composition and views of the 85% Democratic legislature he confronted. Mitt was not the governor of Alabama," French contended.
"He vetoed expanded access to Plan B contraceptives. He vetoed expanded stem cell research. He introduced into the Massachusetts legislature an act protecting religious freedom that was designed to protect the rights of conscience of religious organizations. He was honored for his pro-life commitment by Massachusetts pro-life leaders. His pro-life pledge advances every core element of the pro-life platform," French continued.
He also warned that the continued debate may have a negative effect for pro-life causes that the organization insists Romney will defend.
"I fail to see how debating the extent of the power of Massachusetts leftists to impose their pro-choice agenda does anything but confuse pro-life voters, dim their enthusiasm for a man who will be a great champion for life in office, and weaken our resolve as we face the most radically pro-abortion president in our nation's history," said French.