While few would argue that Mitt Romney has fumbled his entrance onto the national conservative stage, Philip is far too harsh in this post and Romney—as I can attest from personally having had a lengthy, in depth conversation with him about the issue—is not nearly as pathetic or pat as one might surmise from reading it. Here, for example, is the heart of Romney’s July 2005 Boston Globe op-ed “Why I Vetoed the Contraception Bill”:
For all the conflicting views on [abortion], it speaks well of our country that we recognize abortion as a problem. The law may call it a right, but no one ever called it a good, and, in the quiet of conscience people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.
You can't be a prolife governor in a prochoice state without understanding that there are heartfelt and thoughtful arguments on both sides of the question. Many women considering abortions face terrible pressures, hurts, and fears; we should come to their aid with all the resourcefulness and empathy we can offer. At the same time, the starting point should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born. In some respects, these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor. In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead — to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited.
I have also observed the bitterness and fierce anger that still linger 32 years after Roe v. Wade. The majority in the US Supreme Court's Casey opinion assured us this would pass away as Americans learned to live with abortion on demand. But this has proved a false hope.
There is much in the abortion controversy that
Except on matters of the starkest clarity like the issue of banning partial-birth abortions, there is not now a decisive national consensus on abortion. Some parts of the country have prolife majorities, others have prochoice majorities. People of good faith on both sides of the issue should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums — with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that democratic majorities will prevail. We will never have peace on the abortion issue, much less a consensus of conscience, until democracy is allowed to work its way.
A flip-flop has occurred, no doubt about it. And Romney’s stump speech could definitely use a bit of this eloquence these days. Nevertheless, whatever merits each of us chooses to grant Romney’s explanation for it, he has made a philosophical argument that does indeed extends beyond a Harvard researcher’s comment or a sonogram. Whether we choose to accept the argument or not is another issue entirely, of course, but let's not obscure it. After all, aren't flip flops precisely what those of us who advocate certain political, economic or social philosophies are seeking?
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