Politics & Policy

Conversion Story

Mitt Romney says he's pro-life.

Editor’s note: This is text of a speech delivered by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at a banquet for Massachusetts Citizens for Life on May 10, 2007.

 

Thank you Kay.

It is an honor to receive this award.

I recognize that it is awarded for where I am on life, not for where I have been.

#ad#I respect the fact that you arrived at this place of principle a long time ago.

And I appreciate the fact that you are inclined to honor someone who arrived here only a few years ago.

I am evidence that your work, that your relentless campaign to promote the sanctity of human life, bears fruit.

I follow a long line of converts — George Herbert Walker Bush, Henry Hyde, Ronald Reagan. Each of them has made meaningful contributions to this cause.

It is instructive to see the double standard at work here. When a pro-life figure changes to pro-choice, it hardly gets a mention. But when someone becomes pro-life, the pundits go into high dudgeon.

And so, I am humbled and grateful to be welcomed so warmly and openly tonight.

And as many of you know, you were always welcome in my office when I was Governor.

Together we worked arm in arm. And I can promise you this — that will be the case again when I am President.

I am often asked how I, as a conservative Republican, could have been elected in Massachusetts. I tell them that there were three things that helped account for my improbable victory.

First, the state was in a fiscal crisis. A meltdown, of sorts. Beacon Hill couldn’t get budgets done on time. Another big tax hike looked like it was on the way. I promised to balance the budget without raising taxes. And, as you know, together with the legislature, that’s what I did. We eliminated a $3 billion shortfall. And by the time I left, my surpluses had replenished the rainy-day fund to over $2 billion.

Second, we were in a jobs crisis. Massachusetts was losing jobs every month. People were afraid. I went to work to bring jobs back to our state. From the end of the recession, we added 60,000 new jobs. And, we finally got our economic development act together — it was in large measure responsible for the economic growth that we continue to experience even today.

And third, I think that values also played a role in my campaign success. My opponent said she would sign a bill for gay marriage. I said that I would oppose gay marriage and civil unions. My opponent favored bilingual education. I did not. I said that to be successful in America, our kids need to speak the language of America. And as you will surely recall, my opponent wanted to lower the age of consent for an abortion from 18 to 16 — and I did not.

And so, social conservatives, many of them Democrats and Independents, joined fiscal conservatives to elect a Republican.

That being said, I had no inkling that I would find myself in the center of the battlefield on virtually every social issue of our time.

The first battle came when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, by a one vote majority, found a right to same sex marriage in our constitution. I’m sure that John Adams would be surprised.

The Court said that traditional marriage as we have known it, “is rooted in persistent prejudices” and “works a deep and scarring hardship … for no rational reason.”

No rational reason? How about children? Isn’t marriage about the development and nurturing of children? And isn’t a child’s development enhanced by access to both genders, by having both a mother and a father?

I believe that the Court erred because it focused on adults and adult rights.

They should have focused on the rights of children. The ideal setting for the raising of a child is a home with a loving mother and father.

 

#page#

Many of you joined the effort to stop, to block or to slow down this unprecedented Court decision. We took every step we could conceive of, within the law.

First, we pushed for a stay — denied

Then, we fought for an amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman — lost the vote in the legislature by only 2 votes.

#ad#We upheld the 1913 law that prohibited out of state gay couples from marrying here, thus preventing Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.

And in the final analysis, we went to work to secure a vote of the citizens, a battle that took us to court, with a win. And now we are just one step away from putting it on the ballot.

The issue now is whether a single vote majority of the Court will be allowed to trump the voice of the people in a democracy. If it is, then John Adams would truly be astonished.

By the way, we all learned that the phrase “slippery slope” describes a very real phenomenon. The implications of the marriage decision quickly went well beyond adult marriage. Efforts were made to change birth certificates by removing “mother” and “father” and replacing them with “parent A” and “parent B.” I said no to that. And parents of a child in 2nd grade were told that their son is required to listen to the reading of a book called the “King and the King,” about a prince who marries a prince. The school’s rationale was since gay marriage was legal, there was nothing wrong with such a policy.

And then another slide along the slippery slope. The Catholic Church was forced to end its adoption service, which was crucial in helping the state find homes for some of our most difficult to place children. Why? Because the Church favors placements in homes with a mother and a father. Now, even religious freedom was being trumped by the new-found right of gay marriage. I immediately drafted and introduced legislation to grant religious liberty protection, but the legislature would not take it up.

I have taken this message to Washington, explaining the far-reaching implications of gay marriage and the need to support a federal marriage amendment. I testified before Congress. I wrote to every US Senator. Unfortunately, several senators from my own party voted against the marriage amendment.

The fight is not over.

In the midst of that battle, another arose. It involved cloning and embryo farming for purposes of research. I studied the subject in great depth. I have high hopes for stem cell research. But for me, a bright moral line is crossed when we create new life for the sole purpose of experimentation and destruction.

That’s why I fought to keep cloning and embryo farming illegal.

It was during this battle on cloning and embryo farming that I began to focus a good deal more of my thinking on abortion.

When I first ran for office, I considered whether this should be a personal decision or whether it should be a societal and government decision. I concluded that I would support the law as it was in place — effectively, a pro-choice position.

And I was wrong.

The Roe v. Wade mentality has so cheapened the value of human life that rational people saw human life as  mere research material to be used, then destroyed. The slippery slope could soon lead to racks and racks of living human embryos, Brave New World-like, awaiting termination.

What some see as a mere clump of cells is actually a human life. Human life has identity. Human life has the capacity to love and be loved. Human life has a profound dignity, undiminished by age or infirmity.

And so I publicly acknowledged my error, and joined with you to promote the sanctity of human life.

And my words were matched with my actions. As you know, every time I faced a decision as governor that related to human life, I came down on the side of the sanctity of life.

I fought to ban cloning.

I fought to ban embryo farming.

I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation.

I fought for abstinence education in our schools.

And I vetoed a so-called emergency contraception bill that gave young girls drugs without prescription, drugs that could be abortive and not just contraceptive.

That is my record on life as your governor.

It was fought against long odds. You know, you go up against those same odds every day. I always appreciated the strong support I received from you, the pro-life community, for these actions.

But not everyone agrees with me.  You can’t be a pro-life governor in a pro-choice state without considering that there are heartfelt and thoughtful arguments on both sides of the question.  And I certainly believe in treating all people with respect and tolerance. It is our job to persuade our fellow citizens of our position.

The problem is there are some people  who believe that their views must be imposed on everyone. More and more, the vehicle for this imposition is the courts.  Slowly but surely, the courts have taken it upon themselves to be the final arbiters of our lives. They forget that the most fundamental right in a democracy is the right to participate in your own governance.

Make no mistake: abortion and same-sex marriage are not rights to be discovered in the Constitution. 

I think Chief Justice John Roberts put it best at his confirmation hearing, when he described the role of a judge. Chief Justice Roberts said, “Judges and Justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them…and I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”

Now that’s the type of Justice that I would appoint to the court.

On the tenth anniversary of Roe v Wade, Ronald Reagan observed that the Court’s decision had not yet settled the abortion debate.  It had become “a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.”

More than thirty years later, that is still the case.  Numerous court decisions have not settled this question, but have further divided the nation.  And Roe v. Wade continues to work its destructive logic throughout our society.

This cannot continue.

At the heart of American democracy is the principle that the most fundamental decisions should ultimately be decided by the people themselves.

We are a decent people who have a commitment to the worth and dignity of every person, ingrained in our hearts and etched in our national purpose.

So these are the challenges that face the next President: strengthening our country and our families, protecting marriage and human life and preserving for our children the true blessings of liberty. 

These are noble purposes, worthy of a great people.

Thank you.

 

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