Critics Fault Romney's Abortion Record

GLEN JOHNSON
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 10, 2007; 8:14 PM

AGAWAM, Mass. -- Conservative activists criticized Mitt Romney over his abortion record Thursday as the Republican presidential contender received an award from an anti-abortion group that also used to complain about his support for abortion rights.

A coalition including the leaders of the Pro-Life Federation, the Michigan Conservative Union and Massachusetts Resistance was especially critical of the revelation that Romney's wife, Ann, had donated $150 to Planned Parenthood during her husband's 1994 U.S. Senate campaign.

The group also complained because a universal health care bill Romney signed into law while Massachusetts governor includes a seat for Planned Parenthood _ which includes abortion among its family planning services _ on a payment policy board.

"His commitment to the pro-life cause has been called into question because of his frequently changing position on the issue of abortion and his signing into law a bill that provides taxpayer-funded abortion in Massachusetts," the group said in a statement.

In remarks to over 600 people at the Massachusetts Citizens for Life Mother's Day Dinner, Romney conceded his conversion. While personally opposing abortion, he supported abortion rights as recently as two-and-a-half years ago. Now he not only opposes abortion rights personally but calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationally.

"I recognize that (this award) is awarded for where I am on the issue of life, not for where I have been," Romney said. "I respect the fact that you arrived at this place of principle a long, long time ago. And I appreciate the fact that you are inclined to honor someone who arrived here only a few years ago."

Romney added: "I am evidence that your work, that your relentless campaign to promote the sanctity of human life, bears fruit."

Romney contributed $15,000 to the group, a past critic of his record, last December. His wife, Ann, also serves as co-chairman of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life capital campaign and sat beside him at the head table during the dinner.

On Wednesday, when word of Ann Romney's 1994 Planned Parenthood donation surfaced, her husband said her donation should not have been considered unusual, given his own support for abortion rights at the time.

Romney is not alone among the Republican presidential field in facing questions about his abortion record.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the only avowed abortion rights supporter in the race, has been scrutinized during the past week since a debate in Simi Valley, Calif., where he stumbled over a question about repealing Roe v. Wade.

In recent days, Giuliani has more clearly stated his long-held and oft-voiced position _ that he personally opposes the practice of terminating a pregnancy but publicly supports a woman's right to choose.

He is expected to reiterate that stance Friday during a campaign stop at Houston Baptist University in Texas, and is expected to do so again in an appearance on Fox News Sunday before the second GOP debate Tuesday in South Carolina.

The western Massachusetts banquet Romney addressed featured a pair of roses as the centerpiece of each of the 61 tables. A banner behind the stage read, "A baby is a mother's rose to God." The audience also amended the conclusion of the Pledge of Allegiance by adding "for born and unborn" to the traditional ending, "with liberty and justice for all."

During his speech, Romney also described himself as a political figure thrust onto the nation's social battlefield after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized gay marriage in 2003. He opposed the ruling.

"I believe that the court erred because it focused on adults and adult rights," Romney said. "They should have focused on the rights of children. The ideal setting for raising a child is a home with a loving mother and a loving dad."

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Associated Press Writer Liz Sidoti in Washington contributed to this report.


© 2007 The Associated Press