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Friday, February 24, 2012

Catholic blog says Romney lied in debate about morning-after pills being “voluntary” for Catholic Church

Fact-Check: Did Romney Lie About Cardinal and Contraception During Wednesday Debate?

As readers know, if there is one thing that gets under our skin here at BCI, it is deception. This one by former Gov. Romney about a situation here in Massachusetts affects how the country perceives values important to many Catholics, so BCI felt we could not let it sit without a response.

In the Republican Presidential debate Wednesday evening at about 8:50pm or so, former Gov. Mitt Romney said he never infringed on the rights of Catholics as governor of Massachusetts by requiring the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims–it was “entirely voluntary” on the part of the Catholic Church.

If providing morning-after pills was “voluntary” on the part of the Catholic Church, then that would mean that Cardinal O’Malley volunteered to have Catholic hospitals give out abortifacients.

That is simply not true.

Here is a link to a transcript of the debate. Some of the quick transcription is a little off, but the gist of it is accurate:

KING (Moderator): Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the governor to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics’ rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not.

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their part. There was no such requirement.”

Problem is, what Gov. Romney said in the debate is not correct. BCI reported all of the details in our post last month, “Pro-family advocates misrepresent Romney’s record on life.”

In 2005 Romney vetoed a bill to provide access to the so-called “morning-after-pill,” knowing his veto would be overridden, but months later, he decided Catholic hospitals did have to give the morning-after pill to rape victims. Key points to note:

  1. Romney had publicly claimed the bill did not apply to private religious hospitals
  2. He reversed his own July 2005 veto against abortifacients by signing an October bill seeking a federal waiver to expand distribution of Plan B abortifacients.
  3. On December 7, 2005, Romney’s Department of Public Health said that Catholic and other privately-run hospitals could opt out of giving the morning-after pill to rape victims because of religious or moral objections
  4. On December 8, 2005 Romney reversed the legal opinion of his own State Department of Public Health, instructing all Catholic hospitals and others to provide the chemical Plan B “morning after pill” to rape victims. He was quoted as saying, ““I think, in my personal view, it’s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.”

Does that align with what Romney said in the debate? No. Here is an excellent chronology, and below we have re-published all of the details for those who want them.

1975. Massachusetts statute passed which allowed private hospitals to opt out of abortion, sterilization, and contraception.

2002: When Mitt Romney was running for governor, he filled out a questionnaire for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and in response to a question, “…Will you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception?” Romney said: “Yes.”

2004: the Massachusetts legislature considered an “emergency contraception” mandate. It 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.

That bill passed in the State Senate, but not in the House.

2005: Emergency contraception bill passes Senate and House, with veto-proof majority in both chambers of the Democrat-controlled legislature. In July, the House and Senate reached a compromise on it that would protect Catholic hospitals from being forced to act against their faith. Here is more:

At that time, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference published a bulletin explaining what happened. (July 2005 Mass Catholic Conference Notes from the Hill) The House had included language to “expressly apply” the 1975 conscience law protections to the new emergency contraception law. The Senate had included language saying the new law should apply “notwithstanding” any existing law.

“In the end, neither amendment was included in the bill,” said the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. “House Majority Leader John Rogers, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to defend the hospitals’ right of conscience, made it clear during floor debate on July 21 that the House blocked the Senate amendment so that the 1975 conscience statute would continue to have full effect.”

The Catholic Church still opposed the bill because it would facilitate abortions. But at least the religious liberty of Catholic hospitals had been preserved — or so it seemed.

July 25, 2005: Romney vetoed the bill — even though it was clear his veto would be overridden.

He published an op-ed in the Boston Globe the next day explaining his decision. “The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception,” he wrote. “The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception.” Romney said the veto kept his pledge not to change the state’s abortion laws.

Romney made no mention of the religious liberty issue in his op-ed. But then, the bill, as the Massachusetts Catholic Conference and the House majority leader understood it, did not allow coercion of Catholic hospitals.

Dec. 7, 2005: a week before the law was to take effect, the Boston Globe ran an article headlined, “Private hospitals exempt on pill law“. The article said the state Department of Public Health had determined that the emergency contraception law “does not nullify a statute passed years ago that says privately run hospitals cannot be forced to provide abortions or contraception.”

Public Health Commissioner Paul Cote Jr. told the Globe: “We felt very clearly that the two laws don’t cancel each other out and basically work in harmony with each other.”

Romney spokesman Fehrnstrom told the Globe that Romney agreed with the Department of Public Health on the issue. The governor, he said, “respects the views of health care facilities that are guided by moral principles on this issue.”

“The staff of DPH did their own objective and unbiased legal analysis,” Romney’s spokesman told the Globe. “The brought it to us, and we concur in it.”

December 8, 2005: The Globe itself ruefully bowed to this legal analysis. It ran an editorial headlined: “A Plan B Mistake.” “The legislators failed, however,” the Globe said, “to include wording in the bill explicitly repealing a clause in an older statute that gives hospitals the right, for reasons of conscience, not to offer birth control services.”

Liberals joined in attacking Romney’s defense of Catholic hospitals. But that defense did not last long.

The same day the Globe ran its editorial, Romney held a press conference. Now he said his legal counsel had advised him the new emergency contraception law did trump the 1975 conscience law.

“On that basis, I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said. “In my personal view, it’s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape.”

December 9, 2005: Boston Globe reports, “Romney says no hospitals are exempt from pill law“.“Governor Mitt Romney reversed course on the state’s new emergency contraception law yesterday, saying that all hospitals in the state will be obligated to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims. The decision overturns a ruling made public this week by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds.”

Lifesite News reported at the time, “Romney Does Flip-Flop and Forces Catholic Hospitals to Distribute Morning-After-Pill”:

In a shocking turn-around, Massachusetts’s governor Mitt Romney announced yesterday that Roman Catholic and other private hospitals in the state will be forced to offer emergency contraception to sexual assault victims under new state legislation, regardless of the hospitals’ moral position on the issue.

A constitutional law expert advising BCI says that the legislative intent was clearly to allow the 1975 statute to prevail. The formulation of the regulations is supposed to follow the legislative intent. Romney actually violated the law and his oath of office by NOT going with the legislative intent, and overruling the legislative intent (as well as the Constitution).

But t was not merely a legal interpretation by the legal counsel to Romney. Romney said he personally thought it was the “right thing” for hospitals to provide access to emergency contraception for any rape victims. See this Dec 9, 2005 AP report:

Romney: Catholic hospitals not exempt from offering emergency contraception
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press writer

BOSTON –Facing opposition from women, the Democratic Party and even his own running mate, Gov. Mitt Romney abandoned plans yesterday to exempt religious and other private hospitals from a new law requiring them to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims.The governor had initially backed regulations proposed earlier this week by his Department of Public Health, which said the new law conflicts with an older law barring the state from forcing private hospitals to dispense contraceptive devices or information.

The interpretation would have allowed hospitals operated by the Roman Catholic Church, which opposes abortion, to forego compliance with the new regulation. Opponents accused Romney, a Republican considering running for president in 2008, of trying to assuage social conservatives.

Despite defending the Health Department regulations as late as Wednesday, Romney opened a news conference yesterday by declaring that a fresh analysis by his legal counsel concluded the new law supersedes the old law, and that all hospitals must be required to offer the so-called morning-after pill.

“On that basis I have instructed the Department of Public Health to follow the conclusion of my own legal counsel and to adopt that sounder view,” Romney said. “I think, in my personal view, it’s the right thing for hospitals to provide information and access to emergency contraception to anyone who is a victim of rape,” he added.

The Bottom Line:

When Romney was asked in the debate if he had required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims and had infringed on Catholics’ rights, he responded, “No, absolutely not. Of course not.” That was untrue.

When Romney said “for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims…was entirely voluntary on their part”, that was also untrue.

For him to suggest to the citizens of the United States on national television that Cardinal O’Malley and the Catholic Church would “voluntarily” provide morning-after pills is an egregious misrepresentation of Catholic Church teachings and an egregious misrepresentation of what actually happened in this situation.

BCI hopes that the media and other candidates call him out on this.

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