Romney's Pro-Life Conversion: Myth or Reality?

Both issues are likely to get more scrutiny in the campaign, including at the National Right to Life Convention which kicked off Thursday morning in Kansas City, Mo., and where Romney is set to speak Friday. The very first presentation to the convention was entitled, "How the Politics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Has Corrupted Science."

Romney's appointment of a judge who supports abortion rights is likely to sound alarms with many social conservatives, who view issues of judicial appointments as critical to candidates' fitness to serve as president, said Keith Appell, a Republican strategist who is not aligned with any of the presidential candidates.

"This would appear to be evidence that he bowed to political pressures instead of following his supposed judicial philosophy, and that's what the conservative base of the Republican party is very leery of," Appell said. "If you espouse a certain judicial philosophy, your appointments should reflect it."

If he was still taking actions that appear to reflect his old, "pro-choice" views after November 2004, it raises an important question for Republicans, Appell said. "It's part of Romney's challenge: How many epiphanies have you had?" he said.

A Romney Flashpoint

Romney's shifting positions on abortion have become a major flashpoint in the Republican presidential campaign. He ran for Senate in 1994 and governor in 2002 promising to protect abortion rights, but disavowed that view as he began preparations for a presidential run.

This week, the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted Romney for saying in May 2005 that he was "absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regard to laws relating to abortion and choice" -- six months after his position changed on abortion.

The quote came in the context of Romney's veto of a Massachusetts law providing state funding for embryonic stem cell research, which the Romney campaign highlighted in its response to the McCain attack.

Romney's Position on Stem Cell Research

But while drawing attention to that veto, the Romney campaign also showed another issue that Romney has changed positions on -- his support for the federal bill lifting the ban on funding embryonic stem cell research.

"The United States House of Representatives voted for a bill that was identical to what I proposed," Romney said at a statehouse press conference in May 2005. "They voted to provide for surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization processes to be used for research and experimentation. That's what I have said I support. That's what they have just supported."

Romney then explained that he issued his veto because the state bill went farther than the federal bill since it allowed human cloning and the creation of embryos for the purpose of research, as opposed to using discarded embryos from in vitro fertilization.

"What is done in Washington is consistent with what I have said I support which is using surplus embryos from fertilization processes," he said then. "So it would be helpful if people pointed out that in fact what the U.S. House of Representatives is doing is exactly what Gov. Romney proposed."

Scarcely two years later, former Gov. Romney now said he would oppose that House bill.

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