Republican John McCain's campaign on Wednesday circulated a video clip showing then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney reiterating his vow to uphold the state's abortion-rights laws.
"I have indicated that as governor, I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice, and so far I've been able to successfully do that," Romney says. "And, my personal, philosophical views about this issue are not something that I think would do anything other than distract from what I think is a more critical agenda" that includes jobs, education and health care.
Romney made the remark at a news conference on May 27, 2005, the same day he, in the name of "respecting human life," vetoed state legislation that would expand embryonic stem cell research. Nevertheless, McCain's campaign sought to exploit Romney's inconsistencies on the issue.
As a GOP governor of a liberal state, Romney repeatedly vowed not to change state abortion laws. He supported abortion rights as recently as 2½ years ago, even though he insists he has always personally opposed the practice.
Now, as a presidential candidate seeking the Republican nomination, he not only emphasizes his personal opposition to abortion rights, but he also calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationally.
In the 8-minute video, Romney discusses a range of issues, from the "Big Dig" highway construction project to the stem cell legislation. On that matter, he reiterates his long-standing — and current — opposition to developing new embryonic stem cell lines for research.
But McCain's campaign highlighted the one quote about abortion-rights laws as evidence of what it calls Romney's record of reversals, and assailed him for insisting now that "as a governor, I came down on the side of life."
"Mitt Romney's biggest challenge in this election will be convincing Republicans he has principled positions on important issues, especially now that it's known that he remained committed to pro-choice policies after his 'epiphany' on abortion in 2004," Matt David, a McCain campaign spokesman, said in a statement in which he also boasted of McCain's 24-year voting record against abortion.
That was a reference to a Nov. 9, 2004, meeting that Romney had with an embryonic stem cell researcher. Romney often says it was at that meeting that he decided "to make it very clear that I'm pro-life."
Countering, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden defended the former governor's record, and accused McCain's campaign of "trying to alter the context of a statement made at a news conference where he also made a passionate case for his veto of stem cell legislation that showed a level of disregard for the sanctity of human life."
"The McCain campaign's motives are obviously borne of desperation. It's very unfortunate for them," Madden said.
The broadside from McCain's campaign comes as Romney prepares to address the National Right to Life Convention in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, and as the campaign for the GOP nomination has become increasingly caustic between Romney and McCain.