Mitt Romney’s abortion evolution was a matter of convenience and conviction

Will Saletan Takes Your Questions on Mitt Romney’s Abortion Evolution

Will Saletan Takes Your Questions on Mitt Romney’s Abortion Evolution

How Mitt Romney became pro-life
Feb. 23 2012 5:34 PM

A Matter of Convenience and Conviction

William Saletan takes your questions on Mitt Romney’s abortion evolution.

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Jeremy Manier: Hi Will! Define "more acceptable to Democrats." In the sense that Roberts was more acceptable than Alito? If Romney went left of Roberts I suspect he'd have huge problems with his base, especially in a first term.

Will Saletan: Two Jeremies! Awesome. I'm just talking about the difference between a judge for whom any pro-life policies would be a byproduct of judicial philosophy (via Romney) and a judge for whom pro-life policies would be, at least subconsciously, a motivation. For example, if you want to get rid of Roe, you just need a judge who doesn't believe the constitution covers abortion. Whereas under Santorum, I could see a much more aggressive attempt to pick a judge who cares so much about abortion that he/she would let it influence a ruling above and beyond judicial philosophy.


Will Schmidt: I realize that both sides of the issue like clear-cut answers about abortion, but do we really want a candidate who sees abortion in black and white? Most people, it seems to me, like to hedge their position on abortion as to not seem like an extremist. Most pro-choice people I know like to emphasize that they think abortion should be legal mainly because back-alley abortions will become the norm if it is outlawed. They also state that they are uncomfortable with elective abortions that are done out of convenience. I also know many pro-life people who think abortion is OK in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is in danger. Even though they consider themselves “pro-life,” others would call them “pro-choice.” Who is right?

I know most people would read this article and think that Romney is a flip-flopper. Obviously, he is emphasizing the points about abortion that cater to his audience. Every politician ... nay, person, does this. I don't think his beliefs have changed at all. He is not a hard-liner for the pro-life side, yet he is uncomfortable with abortion and its prevalence in America today.

I will admit that I am a biased, pro-life, Romney supporter, but those who disagree with me should take note: reading this article has made me reconsider my stance on abortion. Maybe I am more pro-choice than I thought.


Will Saletan: I think you're basically right. Here's my beef, as a conflicted pro-choicer: I think Romney clearly feels that a cultural signal needs to be sent that abortion mustn't be casual or overused. And I don't mind that. What I mind is the use of criminal law to do that. I just don't agree with my pro-life friends that abortions should be banned to send a message. Criminal laws have real consequences, as anyone who lived through the era of Ann Keenan can tell you. And it does bother me that Romney seems to have forgotten that.


Jeremy Stahl: This is one of my favorite parts of the piece: “When Romney puts his mind to moral issues, he can be quite thoughtful. But he doesn’t like them. He avoids them as long as possible. Then he says as little as possible.” I'm wondering if you think that if he were to win the nomination, the thoughtful Romney would come out at some point in the general election? Or would he still fear a backlash from social conservatives too much to show any nuance at all? Or are both sides going to try to be playing down social issues, so it won't really even be that big of an issue anyway?

Will Saletan: I think one reason we saw that guy in 2004/05 on cloning is that the issue was relatively new, so he felt free to study it. And as Jeremy Manier can tell you, embryo research and biotech in general are constantly evolving, so there would be more opportunities for Romney to think these issues through as they change, if he so chose. But I'm not confident that he'd give them his time.


Tim Stone: There's always the possibility that he picked up a science book and read it …

Will Saletan: He definitely got a science briefing from Hurlbut. I do think Romney respects science and the concept of new discovery more than Santorum does (though not more than Gingrich). So from a science standpoint, Romney would be a better president.

Ross Wachsman: Very thoughtful, nuanced, well researched article. Much appreciated.

Will Saletan: Thanks, Ross. How does it make you feel about Romney? I've heard very different reactions from different people.

Marsha Louise Jamison: Thank you for writing this.

Will Saletan: You're welcome, Marsha. It took forever. He's a very complex guy.

Willie Wickel: ‎Will Saletan, you are blowing up my FB timeline. Good to see you.

Will Saletan: Hi, Willie. Good to see you, too. I'm told I gotta check out of this session now, but it's great to hear from you again.