Where Does Mitt Romney Stand On Women's Issues?

A Historical Look At Romney On Women's Rights

1970s- The Unhappy, Trouble-Making Housewives

In the early 1970s, Exponent II, a modest feminist group in the Mormon community, began publishing materials examining women's issues and concerns. Amanda Winkler (Washington Post) reported, that, Suffolk University professor of government, Judy Dushku, claimed Mitt Romney (then a leader in the Mormon Church) "encouraged his friends to tell their wives not to participate.

She went on to say that Romney made it clear 'he didn't want the women behind the publication holding meetings on church property.'"

Barbara Taylor, a former president of Exponent II, told The Washington Post, "He [Mitt Romney] thought we were just a bunch of bored, unhappy housewives trying to stir up trouble."

1994 -- Run For the Senate And Strong Stand For Abortion Rights

In 1994, Janet Jeghelian, a well-known former Boston talk-radio host wanted to run for the U.S. Senate. Romney, who was then an executive at Bain Capital, also wanted to run for the Senate - but not against a woman. Aided by the state GOP establishment, Romney "helped ensure that she wouldn't even receive a spot on the primary ballot." Steve Kornacki (Salon.com) explained, "Jeghelian's own shortcomings, of course, were the main reason for her collapse. But it still irked many women to watch her use her convention speech to literally beg for a chance to run - and then to be denied."

Very early on in his the gubernatorial race campaign, Romney declared his support for abortion rights -- despite a long history of pro-life religious beliefs. His political positions continued to evolve throughout his campaign to comply with voter demands:

  • Initially opposed Medicaid funding for abortion, later positioning for states' rights to decide;
  • Endorsed the legalization of RU-486, the abortion-inducing drug,
  • Ann Romney donated $150 to Planned Parenthood at a fundraiser event in which her husband took place.

Denying the Romney's had ever taken any other position than a woman's right to choice, Romney said that his political positions conflicted with religious values because they believed in "a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion ever since the October 1963 death of his brother-in-law's sister, Ann Hartman Keenan, from complication following an illegal abortion."(3)

March 2002 -- The Run For Massachusetts Governor

After helping to organize the Winter Olympics Romney returned from Utah to Massachusetts to seek the governorship. Despite offering a previous endorsement to a friend and then governor, Jane Swift, Romney withdrew his support. Kornacki reported that Romney, aided by the state GOP establishment "engineered a coup … One by one, prominent state Republicans stepped forward to call for Swift's exit" and pledge support to Romney … within days Swift - the state's first female governor and the first governor in the country to give birth while in office - dropped out of the race, forced to pretend that 'family obligations' would keep her from running."

Democrat Massachusetts state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien debated Romney, trying to pin him down on his position on pro-choice matters. Refusing to state his position and explain his previous flip-flopping, he finally "bore in, pointing his finger and telling his female opponent that 'your effort to continue to try to create fear and deception here is unbecoming.'"

Although Romney's finger pointing antics were repackaged and repeated over and over by the media, male voters did not seem to understand the insult to women -- but The Globe's Joan Vennochi did: "Any female who has ever been accused of unbecoming conduct knows that is 'Leave it to Beaver' code for saying she is not 'ladylike.'"

Mitt In 2012 - Women's Rights And Choices Based On Religious Conscience

In the thick of the race to seek the Republican presidential race nomination, the GOP stands accused of engaging in a "war on women," something the GOP loudly protests at every turn.

But as Shaw Kenawe (Progressive Erupts) points out, the GOP's "determination to make a legal medical procedure more and more difficult for women, and for the presumptive nominee, Willard [Mitt] Romney, to say that one of the first things he would do as president would be to withdraw all government funding from Planned Parenthood, an organization that serves the health needs of poor women who are under-insured or who have no insurance at all."

Jennifer Epstein (Politico.com) reminds us of Romney's public position on women's rights. "Democrats have seized on potential GOP weaknesses with female voters, including Romney's statement that he would 'get rid' of Planned Parenthood and his support for a congressional measure to give any employer the chance to opt out of covering any health expense for "moral reasons."

Marie Diamond (ThinkProgress.org) also shared insights about Romney's ambiguity on choice issues, "Although he claimed, 'I would like to see the Supreme Court return this right to the states,' he has recently pledged to push for federal abortion restrictions … Romney said he would expand a Bush-era rule that allows doctors to deny women access to contraceptives."

Romney Promises To Restore And Strengthen Conscience Protection Laws

Igor Volsky (ThinkProgress.org) wrote an article (2011) about Romney's intentions if he became president.

"In the final days of the Bush administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted a "conscience rule" permitting federally funded health care providers to opt out of health care services they found objectionable." President Obama reversed the rule that, "could allow practitioners to deny women access to commonly used methods of birth control like 'oral contraceptives, emergency contraception, and the IUD.'"

Mitt Romney has pledged to restore and strengthen the conscience protection. "We have to allow people to practice their faith and when they have a matter of conscience that they can't participate in some form of activity which violates their faith, then they should be able to abide by their faith, particularly when there are plenty of opportunities for people to have a service provided."