Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's past support for abortion rights and state-funded family planning, especially during his Senate run in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, is well known. But Romney's support has lasted longer, and goes deeper, than many may assume.
During Romney's 2002 gubernatorial campaign, he sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts by filling out a questionnaire that made his continued support clear. The document was first circulated in 2007, but is now taking on new relevance as Romney tries to clarify his opposition to abortion rights and government-funded family planning.
Romney pledged his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects women's choice, for laws protecting the safety of abortion clinics, for increased access to the morning-after pill and for late-term abortions when the mother's health is at risk. Romney also indicated on the form that he supported the "state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women."
The issue of "taxpayer-funded abortions" has been the primary GOP talking point for the past two years in the massive, nationwide push to defund Planned Parenthood and limit women's access to abortions. Planned Parenthood, which provides a broad array of preventative health services to low-income women, including breast exams, pap smears and low-cost contraception, has been tirelessly defending itself against claims that it uses taxpayer money to subsidized its abortion services.
The fact that Romney explicitly expressed support for Medicaid-funded abortions in 2002, sought Planned Parenthood's endorsement, attended a Planned Parenthood fundraising event and is now pledging to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood and the Title X federal family planning program represents a fairly dramatic change of positions.
"Governor Romney simply does not believe that federal taxpayer dollars should be used to fund groups that provide abortions or abortion-related services," the Romney campaign said on Wednesday. "This is particularly so during a time of massive budget deficits and out-of-control spending."
"This an astonishing swing," said Dianne Luby, president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. "He attended a Planned Parenthood house party. He filled out this questionnaire saying he supported Roe, sex education in schools, emergency contraception, and then once he became governor, and probably when he had presidential aspirations, some of these positions started to change. Now he's totally different from where he was here in 2002."
Romney has flip-flopped on nearly every issue he addressed in the 2002 questionnaire. In 2005, he broke his promise to increase access to emergency contraception by vetoing a bill in Massachusetts that would have done that. He said in 2002 that he would support "partial-birth" abortions after 24 in cases where the mother's health was at risk, and then he recently told Fox News that he would "absolutely" support a constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at conception.
A "personhood" amendment, like the one considered in Mississippi on Tuesday, could ban abortions in all circumstances, ban intrauterine devices and certain forms of birth control, and complicate the legality of stem cell research and in vitro fertilization. But now that the extreme initiative failed in one of the most conservative, anti-abortion states in the country, Romney is trying to clarify his position.
Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told Politico that Romney supports "a Human Life Amendment that overturns Roe vs. Wade and sends the issue back to the states" -- not necessarily a federal ban on abortion.
The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost for comment.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Romney's history of changing his position on abortion rights and family planning, and breaking promises, should cause people to think twice about the kind of president he would be.
"We had an office pool to see how long it would take for Romney to distance himself from an anti-choice measure that lost big in Mississippi," she said. "Romney is distinguishing himself as the consistently inconsistent candidate. Voters are looking for a candidate who shares their support for the values of freedom and privacy, and Romney misses the mark on many levels."