ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Mitt Romney attended a fund-raising reception for Planned Parenthood in 1994 in conjunction with a $150 donation his wife made to the organization — notwithstanding Romney’s contention that he had “no recollection” of the circumstances under which his wife gave money to the abortion-rights group.
In the photograph obtained by ABC News, Romney and his wife, Ann, are shown in a yellow-and-white tent chatting with local political activists, including Nicki Nichols Gamble, who was then president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
Nichols Gamble — whose back is the camera in the photograph — told ABC that the event was a Planned Parenthood fundraising “house party” in Cohasset, Mass., in June 1994. At the time, Romney, R-Mass., was locked in a tight Senate campaign with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and was touting his support for abortion rights.
That event, Nichols Gamble said, was the occasion where Ann Romney wrote her $150 check — drafted on a joint checking account she had with her husband — to Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts.
“They were both there, and I remember very well chatting with both of them, and talking about his support for the pro-choice agenda,” she said. “We talked about the fact that he was taking a pro-choice position on the issues, and we were very pleased about that.”
When asked by reporters earlier this year whether the former governor had ever donated money to Planned Parenthood, the Romney campaign said no. Aides subsequently conceded that Romney’s wife, Ann, wrote a $150 check to the group in 1994.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told ABC in May 2007 that Romney had “no recollection” of the circumstances under which the check was written, and stressed the fact that the donation was made by Ann Romney.
“The governor has not donated to Planned Parenthood or abortion-rights groups,” Madden said in May.
Madden on Tuesday maintained that neither of the Romneys recalls how and why Ann made her donation in 1994.
“As Mrs. Romney has stated previously, she is unfamiliar with the circumstances of a check she wrote close to 14 years ago,” Madden said.
“During his campaign for U.S. Senate in 1994, it would not have been out of the ordinary for the governor to have attended an event, out of the hundreds that any candidate would attend during a campaign season, which involved a voter coalition and also have his wife accompanying him,” he added.
He also noted that both Romneys were on the record as supporting abortion rights in 1994.
“Like Ronald Reagan before him, the governor has changed his position on this issue and changed it in the right way,” Madden said. “Governor Romney does not regret, and won’t apologize for the fact, that he has become pro-life.”
Nichols Gamble said she”s surprised Romney has no memory of the fund-raising event.
“I can understand that he might not remember the check — it’s surprising to me that he would not remember the event,” she said. “His main motivation for being there was a political motivation.”
Abortion rights emerged as a major issue in Romney’s 1994 battle with Kennedy, with Kennedy warning that Romney would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade and pose obstacles to women’s access to abortions.
“My opponent is multiple choice,” Kennedy said in one famous debate exchange.
Romney responded by saying that while he personally opposed abortion, he supported abortion rights — a position he has subsequently referred to as “effectively pro-choice.”
“I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me, and one of them is that I do not impose those beliefs on other people,” Romney said. “You will not see me wavering on that, or be a ‘multiple choice.’ ”
Romney changed his position on abortion in late 2004, amid a raging debate in his home state over stem-cell research, and he now describes himself as “pro-life.” T
he issue of donations to Planned Parenthood roiled the Republican presidential field this spring, with revelations that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani gave six separate donations to Planned Parenthood during the 1990s.
UPDATE: Romney on Tuesday told ABC’s John Berman that he does not recall attending the fundraiser.
“I attend a lot of events when I run for office. I don’t recall the specific event — not a terribly surprising feature,” Romney said in Columbia, S.C. “As you may recall, I think I’ve made it very clear, I was pro-choice or effectively pro-choice when I ran in 1994. As governor I’m pro-life and have a record of being pro-life and am firmly pro-life today.”
For more political news, check out ABC News’ Rick Klein’s THE NOTE.