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Itís time to dog Romney

Romney hasnít just moved toward a more conservative position on abortion ó heís moved, to a large extent, toward the Mormon position on abortion.

Consider the language. Hereís Romney in a July 26 Boston Globe op-ed:

I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother.

And hereís the public position of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS), taken from a 1973 statement reproduced on the Churchís Web site (www.lds.org):

The Church opposes abortion ... except in rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.

A private handbook for Church leaders also says abortion may be justified in cases of incest, as well as for fetuses whose severe birth defects will kill them after birth. This stance is different from that of the Catholic Church, which never permits abortion.

There are some subtle divergences between Romney and the LDS. In the op-ed, Romney seems to think no fetal defect, however severe, can justify abortion. He apparently thinks abortion is appropriate in all cases of rape; the LDS Church cites rape resulting in "serious emotional trauma." The Church also believes religious consultation and "divine confirmation" should precede any abortion; Romney doesnít mention anything religious (heís only going to flip-flop so far).

The American conversation about politics is still suffering from Kennedy Hangover, with questions about a candidateís religiosity reflexively dismissed as indelicate. It might be time to lose that baggage. Of course a politicianís faith is going to influence the way he or she thinks about pressing issues; what matters is what, exactly, the nature of that influence is. With that in mind, here are a few follow-up queries for the governor: is abortion acceptable in all cases of rape, or just some? Should religious consultation precede a motherís decision to abort a fetus? And broadly speaking, how did LDS doctrine shape your thinking as you grappled with this issue? (The governor did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.)

There are no right or wrong answers. But as Romney gears up for a presidential run, the questions should be asked.

Issue Date: July 29 - August 4, 2005
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