THE BLOG

Over Her Dead Body

10/16/2012 02:57 pm ET | Updated Dec 16, 2012
  • Cristina Page Author, 'How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America'

Mitt Romney's "close" relative died of an illegal abortion (which is why he used to say he wouldn't force his beliefs on you).

In 1963, Mitt Romney lost a "dear" and "close" relative to an illegal abortion. Ann Keenan was the sister of his brother-in-law, Loren "Larry" Keenan, husband to Mitt's sister, Lynn. By all accounts, her death at age 21 "deeply impacted members of the family." Romney's sister, Jane, explained, "'She was a beautiful, talented young gal we all loved. And [her death] pretty much ruined the parents -- [she was] their only daughter. You would do anything not to repeat that." The Keenan family asked for donations to be sent to Planned Parenthood in her name.

Ann Keenan apparently "was very close" to Mitt personally and he, too, appeared moved by the loss explaining, it "obviously makes one see that regardless of one's beliefs about choice, that you would hope it would be safe and legal." During a debate with Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney pledged, "It is since that time my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter. And you will not see me wavering on that."

But Romney's dear young relative seems to have disappeared from his memory (as has his promise to not waiver.) He no longer "exhumes" her body to serve as proof of his pro-choice credentials as he did routinely when running for governor of Massachusetts. These days, he's promising to overturn Roe v. Wade. Indeed, he seems eager to reinstate those laws that drove his close relative to fatally take matters into her own hands.

Some imply that his pro-choice pledge may have always been a ruse. Ann Coulter explained, "He tricked liberals into voting for him. I like a guy who hoodwinks liberals so easily." Is it possible for a politician to stoop that low -- using the tragic death of someone so close for political expediency? (And is it possible that, as Coulter would have it, we, not Romney, are the assholes for expecting more of him?)

The average American isn't able to analyze Romney's double speak on abortion. Last week Romney told the Des Moines Register editorial board, in seeking their endorsement, that "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." He appeared to want to calm Iowa voters, suggesting that he wouldn't be a radical pro-lifer. This, though, seems one more instance of electoral quick stepping. Right before the election, he says what he needs to say, dissembling on his plans to reverse Roe, an objective he's repeatedly boasted about. The president doesn't have much role in scaling back abortion on the legislative level, but Romney will act by appointing anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

As a New York Times editorial explained yesterday, "There is every indication that about half the states would make abortion illegal within a year of Roe being struck down, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenges abortion restrictions around the country, puts the number at 30 states." For some context, approximately 400,000 women, mostly mothers, in these states had an abortion in 2006.

So a good question for Romney during tonight's debate would be about his beloved Ann Keenan, snuffed out so early, and the lessons her death taught him. And more pointedly, why is he planning to deliver American women to her fate.