By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Lenore Romney and abortion rights

Part four of the Globe’s series on Mitt Romney flatly asserts that a family tragedy led his mother, Lenore Romney, to favor abortion rights in her 1970 run for the U.S. Senate. Neil Swidey and Stephanie Ebbert write about the stance Mitt Romney took in his own Senate run in 1994:

Although he always said he was personally opposed to abortion, Romney sought to reassure Massachusetts voters of his pro-choice bona fides by citing his mother’s example. Lenore had run for the Senate on an abortion-rights platform, a stance forged by the death of her son-in-law’s teenage sister from an illegal abortion.

”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,” Romney declared. ”And you will not see me wavering on that.”

Note how the sentence I’ve boldfaced is constructed — as a straight declaration of fact, with no attribution. Yet that statement has come under question in the past.

In June 2005, Globe columnist Eileen McNamara reported there was little evidence to suggest that Lenore Romney, who died in 1998, had spoken out in favor of abortion rights during her unsuccessful campaign.

In response to McNamara’s column, Romney released a statement that encompassed what his mother had said at the time. Among other things, Lenore Romney said: “I support and recognize the need for more liberal abortion rights while reaffirming the legal and medical measures needed to protect the unborn and pregnant woman [sic].”

The Globe rightly observed, “It was not clear what specific positions Lenore Romney was advocating in the statement.” And, oh yeah, the reporter was Stephanie Ebbert.

Given that the Globe is asking us to wade through some 35,000 words on Romney this week, you’d think that it could remind us there’s some disagreement over how he characterized his mother’s beliefs — especially since that disagreement plays into the criticism that Romney will say anything to advance his ambitions.

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  1. Timotheus

    Good post. A lot has been made about Lenore Romney’s supposed strong abortion rights position but I have always been a little skeptical.

  2. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    What I am hearing from Massachusetts is that they are afraid Mitt Romney has a chance to be elected. Why else are they so actively trying to discredit him?

  3. Peter Porcupine

    “I support and recognize the need for more liberal abortion rights”This was quite a racy statement in 1970, even with qualifiers. In Massachusetts, contraception was still illegal!Stop trying to peer into the Glob way-back machine. The lady has passed, her son says – to his political detriment in some circles – that she was pro-choice. Even if Ms. McNamara, in her psychic fashion, doesn’t agree. I question the objectivity of her sources claiming to secod-guess whtat you are offering as Mrs. Romney’s words – political activists for a cause Mrs. Romney didn’t support, the ERA.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    … while reaffirming the legal and medical measures needed to protect the unborn and pregnant woman.Come on, PP, even you’ve got to recognize that the second part of the quote might negate the first.

  5. Anonymous

    don, he discredits himself! He needs no help from us. We’re just observers.

  6. Anonymous

    If you leave the choice to the individual what is so hard to understand. This is an issue the government needs to leave alone. I think Romney spoke all he needed to in stating the individual has to make and live with the decision. To many read to much into all this.

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