Meet the Press | May 25, 2013
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk to you about your campaign. This is how it has been described in numerous cartoons, editorials, news articles:"A Changed Man . Many candidates change. Romney seems to have given himself a makeover. Which has prompted more than a few people to ask: Who is this guy?" Some of your opponents passed out these flip-floppers, that Romney flips and flops on the various issues. And it's become a real issue for you in Iowa . The Des Moines Register asked Republicans who aren't supporting you what's the major factor for not supporting Romney ? And look at this: Shifting his position on issues like abortion , 51 percent of Republicans say that's why they haven't embraced your candidacy.
I want to take abortion first. I participated in your debate in 2002 when you ran for governor of Massachusetts . I asked you about that issue, and this was your response. Let's watch.
GOV. ROMNEY: My position has been the same throughout my political career, and it goes back to the days of 1970 . There was a woman who was running for political office , U.S. Senate . She took a very bold and courageous stand in 1970 , and that was in a conservative state. That was that a woman should have the right to make her own choice as to whether or not to have an abortion . Her name was Lenore Romney , she was my mom. I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.
MR. RUSSERT: "Devoted and dedicated" to honoring your word. When you ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy , you were asked the same question. This was your response.
GOV. ROMNEY: Many, many years ago I had a dear close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion . 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.
Offscreen Voice : Thank you, Mr...
GOV. ROMNEY: And you will not see me wavering on that.
MR. RUSSERT: You -- will not see you wavering on that issue. You now have said you support the 2004 Republican Party platform, which says this:"We say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We" suggest "a human life amendment to the Constitution ." Such amendment would ban abortions all across the country. Why such a dramatic and profound change after pledging never to waiver on a woman's right to choose?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, you know, Tim , I was always personally opposed to abortion , as I think almost everyone in this nation is. And the question for me was, what is the role of government? And it was quite theoretical and, and philosophical to consider what the role of government should be in this regard, and I felt that the Supreme Court had spoken and that government shouldn't be involved and let people make their own decision. And that all made a lot of sense to me.
And then I became governor and the theoretical became reality, if you will. A bill came to my desk which related to the preservation of life. In this case, it happened to be a, a bill that would authorize cloning, which was -- as well as embryo farming -- which would be creating new embryos for the purpose of, of research and then destroying them. And, and I brought in people from across the country to talk about this bill, from theologians to scientists, provost of Harvard University and others, and, and talked about it. And, and I, I recognized, as I went through that effort, that I simply could not be part of an effort that would cause the destruction of human lift. And I didn't hide from that change of heart . I wrote an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe , described my view that I am pro-life, described why I had changed to become pro-life. I recognize it's a change. You can, you can find, you know, many, many instances of my indicating my position previous to that time of being effectively pro-choice. I didn't call myself pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. And, and, and that position changed. It changed at that point. And every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as the governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe life begins at conception?
GOV. ROMNEY: I do. I believe, I believe from a, from a, a political perspective that life begins at conception. I, I don't, I don't pretend to know, if you will, from a theological standpoint when life begins . But...
MR. RUSSERT: You didn't try to change the Massachusetts abortion laws .
GOV. ROMNEY: I'd committed to the people of Massachusetts that I would not change the laws one way or the other, and I honored that commitment. But each law that was brought to my desk attempted to expand abortion rights and, in each case, I vetoed that effort. I also promoted abstinence education in our schools. I vetoed an effort, for instance, to give young women a morning after pill, they call it, who did not have prescriptions -- young, very young girls, without age limitation. So I took action to preserve the sanctity of life. But I did not violate my word, of course.
MR. RUSSERT: But when you say you support a human life amendment to ban all abortions across the country, what would -- form would that take? If a woman had an abortion , would she be perceived a criminal? Would a doctor who performed it be perceived a criminal? You talked about your family relative who died from an illegal abortion , and yet President Romney is saying ban all abortion . And what would be the legal consequences to people who participated in that procedure?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, let's do two parts to that. First of all, my view is that the right next step in the, in the fight to preserve the sanctity of life is to see Roe v. Wade overturned and then return to the states and to the elected representatives of the people the ability to deal with, with life and abortion on their own. And so...
MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor... allow abortion , others wouldn't.
GOV. ROMNEY: So that...
MR. RUSSERT: But, Governor, play that out. Some states would allow abortion , others wouldn't.
GOV. ROMNEY: Right. Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: So back to your relative.
GOV. ROMNEY: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: They cross the border into another state...
GOV. ROMNEY: Mm-hmm.
MR. RUSSERT: ...or they stay in their own state and have an illegal abortion . What would be the consequences? Would they be...
GOV. ROMNEY: Let me get, let me get that. I'll get to the consequences.
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
GOV. ROMNEY: I promise.
MR. RUSSERT: Please.
GOV. ROMNEY: But I want to point out that the first step, in my view, is that Roe v. Wade be overturned. And ultimately, as, as an aspirational goal, I would love it if America came to a point where we're not today, where the people of America would, would welcome a society that did not have abortion . But that's not where we are, and so I'm not promoting or fighting for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in all 50 states. I am fighting for an overturning of Roe v. Wade.
And the consequences? They would be like the consequences associated with the bill relating to partial birth abortion , which, of course, does not punish the woman. You, you wouldn't -- I don't think anyone is calling for -- maybe some of them, but no one I know of is calling for punishing the, the mother, punishing the woman.
MR. RUSSERT: How about the doctor?
GOV. ROMNEY: But in, in the case of the doctor, the kinds of penalties would be potentially losing a license or having some other kind of restriction. In the case of partial birth abortion , as I recall, the penalty is a -- possibly a prison term not to exceed two years. But generally, of course, the medical profession would immediately follow the law. That's not going to be an issue. And there would be a, a recognition that, that one's, one's license was at risk if one violated the law.