When he challenged Ted Kennedy in the 1994 U.S. Senate race, Mitt Romney used polling data to determine that he would run as a pro-choice candidate while remaining personally pro-life, according to a new book by Boston journalist Ronald Scott.
The Washington Examiner revealed the moment in Scott's book:
According to Scott, Romney revealed that polling from Richard Wirthlin, Ronald Reagan's former pollster whom Romney had hired for the '94 campaign, showed it would be impossible for a pro-life candidate to win statewide office in Massachusetts. In light of that, Romney decided to run as a pro-choice candidate, pledging to support Roe v. Wade, while remaining personally pro-life.
According to Scott's new book, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, Romney traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with Mormon church elders in November 1993 to lay out his public position on abortion. Some leaders were not pleased by his position, Scott reports.
Romney stuck with his decision. In an October 1994 debate, Romney said he believed that abortion should be "safe and legal" and that Roe v. Wade should stand. He added, "And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign."
Sen. Kennedy seized on his stance: "On the question of the choice issue, I have supported the Roe v. Wade. I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice."
Romney responded, "I have my own beliefs and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people." He then told the story of a family friend who passed away from an illegal abortion.
(Video of the debate above via Youtube.)
Justin Elliott of Salon.com reported that the woman in question was Ann Keenan, the sister of Romney's brother-in-law, who died in 1963, a decade before Roe v. Wade was decided.
After losing to Kennedy in a landslide, Romney campaigned as pro-choice again in his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign. He said that he supported state-funded abortions for low-income women in a 2002 Planned Parenthood questionnaire.
In a 2005 Boston Globe op-ed, Romney came out as pro-life after vetoing a bill to increase access to emergency contraception.
While Romney has denied charges that he flip-flops on issues, Romney campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told MSNBC that abortion is the one substantial issue that he has admitted changing his position on.
"I'd make sure that the progress that has been made to provide for life and to protect human life is not progress that would be reversed," Romney told Fox News' Mike Huckabee in October. "My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade and send back to the states the responsibility for deciding whether they're going to have abortion legal in their state or not."