11/19/2007 10:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Over Her Dead Body

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

In the 1960s, Mitt Romney lost a "dear" and "close" relative to an illegal abortion. She was the sister of his brother-in-law, Loren "Larry" Keenan, husband to Mitt's sister, Lynn. By all accounts, her death "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 -- their only daughter. You would do anything not to repeat that." She, 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."

She seems to have disappeared from his memory (as has his promise to not waiver.) There's no more Weekend at Bernie's political strategy, 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?)

But here's worst part: the average American isn't paying any attention to what politicians like Romney say about reversing Roe. So here's the key political question: Is it a lie if no one hears it? The majority of the American public wants Roe v Wade to remain the law of the land (54 percent approve of Roe, while only 32 percent approve of the president). Most Americans also persistently believe Roe v Wade will never be overturned. What Romney and the rest of the GOP contenders say is white noise to most people. Throughout the bunker bombing, Roe has withstood in the last few years, most Americans have been in a political stupor. They've missed the red flags, unaware of how close by a Roe reversal really is. They're the neighbors who, once the serial killer living next door is discovered, report that he seemed like a really nice guy, despite all that middle of the night digging in the backyard. The reason Roe won't be overturned, most Americans figure, is because it can't happen, not in this day and age.

Recent national polls amplify this phenomenon. Lake Research Associates found that in states that have just passed bans on abortion (timed to go into effect the moment Roe is overturned), most residents think that the right to abortion in their state is safe. The majority of voters nationwide favor making changes in the law to increase protections for a woman's right to abortion. Meanwhile, over the last three years, 14 states have moved to immediately ban abortion and spark a direct Supreme Court challenge of Roe. The Center for Reproductive Rights' recently released an update of its "What if Roe Falls?" report. The Center found that since Justice O'Connor stepped down in 2005, there's been a 3.5 fold increase in the number of state legislative actions to immediately ban abortion. By the Center's estimate, 28 states are at risk of completely outlawing abortion if Roe is gone (19 of these states are at high risk). For some context, 400,000 women, mostly mothers, in these states had an abortion last year.

According to GOP plans, they're the future dead close relatives of presidential candidates.

The 2008 elections will decide if Roe falls, whether we believe it or not. We're now one Supreme Court justice away from an anti-Roe majority on the Court. Our strongest pro-choice justice, John Paul Stevens, is a vibrant 87. The next president will likely appoint two justices just as Bush did. Roe is in the crosshairs. For the one in three women who will seek an abortion in her lifetime, and everyone who loves her, it's time to start noticing, and mentioning, what the GOP is digging in their backyard.