A defining moment in Mitt Romney's post-pro-life-conversion political career came in his third year as governor of Massachusetts, when he decided Catholic hospitals would be required under his interpretation of a new state law to give rape victims a drug that can induce abortions.
Romney announced this decision -- saying it was the "right thing for hospitals" to do -- just two days after he had taken the opposite position.
The story begins in 1975, when Massachusetts enacted a law that said, "No privately controlled hospital .. shall be required to permit any patient to have an abortion ... or to furnish contraceptive devices or information to such patient ... when said services or referrals are contrary to the religious or moral principles of said hospital ... ."
Twenty-seven years later, when Romney was running for governor, he filled out a questionnaire for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. It said: "Emergency contraception does not cause abortion. Rather, it prevents pregnancy from occurring. Will you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception?"
Romney said: "Yes."
The next year, the Massachusetts legislature considered an "emergency contraception" mandate. It would have allowed pharmacists to sell Plan B -- an abortifacient -- without a prescription and without parental consent. It also would have required all hospitals to inform rape victims of the availability of such "emergency contraceptives" and provide them to the rape victim if she wanted them even when they would cause an abortion.
Maria Parker of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public policy organization of the state's Catholic bishops, explained in testimony to the state legislature why Catholic hospitals could not do this.
The normal Catholic ban on artificial contraception did not apply in a rape case, Parker said. But while contraception was acceptable in such a situation, killing an unborn child was not.
In keeping with this moral understanding, one Massachusetts Catholic hospital chain would later explain to the Boston Globe that its practice was to test a rape victim to make certain she was not pregnant and only then give her emergency contraceptives. If the test proved the woman was pregnant, the hospital would not give the woman the drugs because they could not prevent conception but they could kill her child.
Parker concluded her testimony by quoting what Cardinal Frances George of Chicago had told the Illinois legislature when it proposed a similar law: "Our hospitals cannot and will not comply with this law."
In that session, the Massachusetts Senate passed the "emergency contraception" bill, but it was blocked in the House.