In the next few days, hundreds of thousands of my fellow Catholics will vote for Mitt Romney with the belief that he is a pro-life leader who will work to end abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. His rhetoric just doesn't match the record.
RomneyCare in Massachusetts pays for abortions. As governor, after flip-flopping on the issue of requiring Catholic hospitals in that state to administer the morning-after pill -- considered by many Catholics to be an abortifacient -- Romney, on "advice of counsel," said all hospitals would have to follow the law. He even held a fundraiser this spring at the home of the chairman of Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes and markets the Plan B morning after pill. Romney recently told the Des Moines Register that "there's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda." His aides were forced to scramble with statements to the press in order to mollify social conservatives, but it was a rare moment of candor. Even his own family members have said he will do nothing to change abortion laws. At the Republican National Convention, his sister said that a ban on abortion was "never going to happen" in a Romney presidency.
Romney has a history of saying things behind closed doors that he doesn't say in public. Romney also has a history with the abortion industry. In 1999, when Romney was still listed as CEO of Bain Capital, and when he was attending Bain board meetings, Bain acquired a large interest in Stericycle, a major disposer of aborted babies in the United States. Since abortions are not possible without disposal, Stericycle/Bain were involved with what Catholic moral theology describes as "cooperation with evil." Bain owned a share of Stericycle until 2004, selling its interest for profit in the tens of millions of dollars. As Romney has said: "Corporations are people, my friend. ... Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people." Using his own logic, Bain's Stericycle profits went to Romney, which makes him an abortion profiteer.
Some Catholic bishops have essentially endorsed Mr. Romney with their frequent condemnations of President Obama. But those bishops who insist that the Catholic voter cannot use prudential judgment in deciding which candidate will do a better job when it comes to addressing the root causes of abortion ignore the clear evidence above. They also ignore the fact that a $250 million pregnancy assistance fund in President Obama's Affordable Care Act (which Romney would repeal on his first day in office) is likely to do more to reduce the abortion rate than Romney's hypocritical rhetoric about undoing Roe ever will.
Poverty puts too many women in crippling situations. But when low-income pregnant women have robust social supports in the form of pre-natal and post-natal health care they have real choices and are more likely to carry a pregnancy to full term. In fact, recent data from Massachusetts shows that the state's universal health care law, which Romney now runs away from at every turn, has helped lower abortion rates. While Catholic bishops have lobbied aggressively to fight access to contraception, another recent study from researchers at Washington University found abortions in the St. Louis area declined by 20 percent from 2008-2010 after an extensive public health campaign to give free birth control to thousands of low-income women.
Catholics and other religious voters should consider Mitt Romney's malleable position on abortion, unethical business practices and foreign policy saber rattling before casting their vote. Millions of Bain Capital's original outside funding, solicited by Romney himself, came from wealthy El Salvadorian families. While they were funding Bain, some were also funding right-wing death squads. These death squads killed tens of thousands of mostly poor people in El Salvador. They also killed Jesuit priests, Maryknoll nuns and Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Bain profits of these Salvadoran families helped to fund these death squads. Death squads and those who help to finance them cannot be called pro-life. Romney has also surrounded himself with the same hawkish advisors who drove us to attack Iraq in 2003 without just cause, costing over 4,000 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Pope John Paul II described war as a "defeat for humanity" and compared the Iraqi war to the evil of abortion. Romney's recent statements on Iran are reminiscent of George Bush's march to war in Iraq. Can we trust Romney not to squander young American lives in Iran the way Bush squandered young American lives in Iraq?
While some of our bishops act more like Republican ward chairman than pastors, faithful Catholics need to know the facts before they vote for Romney as a "pro-life" candidate.