Romney: Flip-Flopping on Contraception?
He has defended conscience exemptions, but maybe not as much as he could.

On the tarmac in Bedford, Mass., January 2012


Katrina Trinko

Mitt Romney has recently been under fire from his GOP rivals over a 2005 Massachusetts law mandating that all hospitals, including Catholic ones, offer the morning-after pill to rape victims.

“In December 2005, Governor Mitt Romney required all Massachusetts hospitals, including Catholic ones, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims,” charged Rick Santorum in a Politico op-ed this week. “The fact is,” said Newt Gingrich on Wednesday, “Governor Romney insisted that Catholic hospitals give out abortion pills against their religious belief when he was governor.”

Romney’s campaign has pushed back on this narrative forcefully, pointing to Romney’s decision in July 2005 to veto the bill Santorum and Gingrich have referenced, which mandated that all Catholic hospitals provide the morning-after pill to all rape victims. (The Church instructs hospitals to first test whether a rape victim has conceived; if she has not, the morning-after pill may be given to prevent conception.) Romney not only vetoed the bill, but forcefully spoke up against it.

“Yesterday I vetoed a bill that the Legislature forwarded to my desk,” Romney wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed. “Though described by its sponsors as a measure relating to contraception, there is more to it than that. The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception.”

Unsurprisingly, the Massachusetts legislature overrode Romney’s veto. It wasn’t a close vote, either: State senators unanimously voted for the bill, joined by 139 House members. Only 16 House members voted to uphold the veto.

But the saga didn’t end there. On December 7, the state’s Department of Public Health stated that Catholic hospitals remained legally exempt from the mandate to distribute emergency contraception, despite the fact that the new law included no religious exemption. The department contended that the new law did not nullify a 1975 statute that did provide an exemption for hospitals that wished not to provide abortion or contraception for religious reasons.

“We feel very clearly that the two laws don’t cancel each other out and basically work in harmony with each other,” department commissioner Paul Cote Jr. told the Boston Globe.


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