Dems Attack Romney on Abortion, Personhood

Nov 3, 2011 2:56pm

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer, Emily Friedman and Z. Byron Wolf report:

Democrats have opened an emotionally charged new front in their campaign against Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, using a scathing new web video to blast his swing to the right on the issue of abortion rights.

You can view the video HERE.

The video features an exchange from Fox News’ “Huckabee” show when host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee asked Romney whether he’d support redefining personhood in an effort to end abortion.

“Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?” Huckabee asked.

“Absolutely,” Romney replied.

In the video, Romney’s “absolutely” response to Huckabee is then juxtaposed with women in Mississippi voicing concerns about a pending ballot measure there that would redefine personhood in the state if approved by voters next week. Critics say the step would effectively outlaw abortion in all cases, many forms of birth control, and infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.

The ad is somewhat misleading, however, leaving unanswered whether Romney is referring to the Mississippi legislation or another so-called personhood amendment, an important distinction.  Much of the debate on the Mississippi ballot measure has arisen because it is ambiguous.

“It is obvious why those who support abortion rights will be uncomfortable with this amendment. But opponents of abortion rights may find that it covers more than they bargained for, including some forms of in vitro fertilization and birth control,” law professors Glenn Coehn and Jonathan Will wrote in the New York Times this week.   

“Indeed, even opponents of abortion rights who would like nothing more than to give the courts an opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade may find this amendment a bad vehicle for doing so,” they wrote.

Romney’s position on abortion, while it has appeared to change dramatically since his time as Massachusetts Governor and a Senate candidate in that state, still provides for exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the mother’s life is in danger.

At the same time, he told Huckabee in that same Fox News interview, according to reports, that he thinks the Supreme Court should revisit Roe v. Wade and he would give responsibility for regulating abortion to states like Mississippi.  

“My view is the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade and send back to the states the responsibility for deciding whether they’re going to have abortion legal in their state or not,” Romney told Huckabee.

By tying Romney to the so-called personhood amendment campaign, which is gaining steam in five states plus Mississippi, Democrats continue their effort to cast Romney as an extreme figure and serial flip-flopper, even on hot-button social issues.

“On an issue that speaks to deeply held core beliefs for most Americans, Mitt Romney has once again shown that he’s only interested in adopting what core beliefs give him the most support at that very moment,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said.

Schultz cited a Washington Post report that found Romney had courted abortion rights advocates during his run for Massachusetts governor in 2002, promising to protect the state’s abortion rights laws and even act to soften the Republican Party’s stance on the issue on the national stage.  He now opposes all forms of abortion.

The Romney campaign responded to the ad, saying it was an attempt to distract voters from Democrats’ economic record. “It’s too bad this White House isn’t as focused on attacking unemployment as they are in attacking our campaign,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

UPDATE:  The DNC followed its video release with an email blast to supporters from executive director Patrick Gaspard, who suggested Romney’s support for a personhood amendment would equate birth control with murder.

“This is the most radical position any of the Republican candidates have taken on this issue, and may be the most radical position any of them have taken on any substantive issue in the race for the nomination so far,” Gaspard wrote.

Romney did not immediately offer a direct response to Democrats’ charge about his views on personhood and birth control.

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