When Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry signed the Susan B. Anthony List’s anti-abortion pledge Wednesday, the pro-life group claimed a significant victory: they’ve gotten virtually all GOP candidates to vow to appoint only pro-life cabinet members and high-level administration personnel, as well as to promote anti-abortion legislation.
Almost all GOP candidates have signed the pledge — but not former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Romney is not alone in resisting — Herman Cain, Gary Johnson and Jon Huntsman haven’t signed either — but he’s the only candidate polling above the single digits who hasn’t signed. Some consider him a frontrunner for his party’s nomination, a position the SBA List would be more comfortable with if he signed the pledge, communications director Ciara Matthews told Raw Story.
“Gov. Romney has been a longtime friend of the pro-life movement and we believe that he would be a pro-life leader if he were elected, but there are very specific things that we are looking for out of a Republican nominee to the White House,” Matthews said. “There are still some questions left unanswered, specifically whether he has a desire to appoint a pro-abortion nominee or individual to relevant cabinet positions and the Attorney General. Apparently he is leaving the door open for himself to nominate a pro-abortion person to those positions, which is unacceptable to us.”
Romney’s credentials as a pro-life leader, however, are not backed up by his record. During a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate in October 2002, Romney said that he would “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” By 2007, when he launched his first campaign for president, he said that he had always personally been pro-life and would now legislate that way.
“I was effectively pro-choice when I ran for office,” Romney said in a 2007 Republican debate. “When I became governor of Massachusetts, the first time a bill came to my life that dealt with life, I simply could not side with — with taking a life, and I came on the side of life. Every bill that came to my desk, every issue that related to protecting the sanctity of life, I came down on the side of life. I’m pro-life. I’m not going to apologize for becoming pro-life. I’m proud to be pro-life.”
In June, when SBA List announced the pledge, Romney balked and released a statement.
“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences,” it read in part. “That is why I could not sign it.”
Under the pledge, high-profile, pro-life Republicans such as Rudy Guiliani would be off-limits as political appointees.
Matthews said that while SBA List didn’t doubt Romney’s “transformation,” more than 22,000 people had signed the group’s Pro-Life Citizen Pledge, promising to vote only for a candidate who had signed the candidate pledge.
“We would certainly hope that Gov. Romney would take a good look at that number, and also the importance of being a leader of the pro-life movement,” Matthews said.
The organization’s PAC also wields quite a bit of financial power, and spent more than $2.5 million on advertising during the 2010 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that Romney’s refusal to sign the pledge did not represent anything positive for the pro-choice movement, no matter what his past positions.
“The declared field of 2012 GOP hopefuls is anti-choice, therefore, no one candidate is better than the next,” Keenan said in an email. “Although Mitt Romney claimed to be pro-choice early on in his career, his position shifted dramatically during his numerous campaigns for elective office, placing him on the wrong side of this issue. Regardless of Mitt Romney’s calculated decision to decline to sign the Susan B. Anthony pledge, as long as he continues to remain anti-choice, NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to view him as a threat to the basic rights of women.”
Romney’s campaign had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.