Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's media statements about women's reproductive choice may sound moderate, but are the complete opposite of what might emerge if he becomes president and appoints the Supreme Court justices recommended by his adviser, Robert Bork.
Speaking with CBS News before the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney said, "My position has been clear throughout this campaign. I'm in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest and the health and life of the mother, but recognize, this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court. The Democrats try to make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It's been settled for some time in the courts. I come down on the side of life. [...] of course people have the right to use contraceptives."
He was answering CBS News' question about the Republican platform which calls for a ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest … a position that has been highlighted by remarks by Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, who claimed that "victims of 'legitimate rape' rarely get pregnant." After those remarks, numerous Republicans — including Romney — demanded that Akin leave the race, which Akin refused to do.
Akin's anti-choice views mirror those of Romney's running mate, Senator Paul Ryan, who has co-sponsored a number of anti-abortion and "personhood bills" that are in line with the Republican platform. Under "personhood," fertilized eggs — or zygotes — are considered persons having constitutional rights. Personhood legislation does not consider the health of the mother, the viability of the fetus, or the cause of pregnancy, like rape or incest. A spokesperson for Personhood USA admitted last October that the birth control pill could in fact be banned under personhood legislation. (See story on personhood, the effects of personhood and Paul Ryan.)
Last year, Romney expressed his support for Mississippi's Amendment 26 which, if passed, would have created a state constitutional personhood amendment. After endorsing "personhood" with Mike Huckabee, a woman in Sioux City, Iowa, asked Gov. Romney about birth control because it prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus (thus killing the "egg person") but he was unable to reconcile his views on personhood and birth control.
Regardless of whether Mr. Romney can justify his position on personhood and birth control, his statement about the Supreme Court deciding women's constitutional issues is significant.
If elected president, Romney would likely appoint at least one Supreme Court justice who would serve for life. Romney has chosen right-wing extremist Robert Bork to help him select justices, People For the American Way (PFAW) reports. Bork's views are so extreme his own nomination to the Court was rejected by a broad, bipartisan coalition more than 20 years ago. According to PFAW's report, "Borking America,"
On July 1, 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court, setting off a profound national debate about the meaning of the Constitution and the role of the Justice. Is the Constitution the expansive charter of the freedoms and liberties of the people, as Justices like William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall argued, or is it a straitjacket on democratic freedom designed primarily to protect those with power, privilege, wealth and property? Bork’s performance was not reassuring. In his most reflective moment at his confirmation hearings, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he wanted to serve on the Court because it offered him an “intellectual feast,” but most Americans rapidly came to the conclusion that, if Bork were seated at the table, they were themselves going to appear somewhere on the menu.
Bork’s opposition to reproductive freedom as a constitutional principle, his skepticism about modern civil rights law, his blithe constitutional acceptance of poll taxes and literacy tests, his reflexively pro-corporate, anti-worker and anti-environmentalist stances, his historical U-turns and dodgy answers all inspired a huge popular mobilization against him. Ultimately, his nomination was defeated with a strong, bipartisan vote of 58-42, with six Republicans voting no and two Democrats voting yes. (Lest one reach the conclusion that the Senate would have rejected anyone nominated to the Court by President Reagan, the body ultimately confirmed, by a vote of 97-0, the deeply conservative Anthony Kennedy, who later came to author the Court’s devastating Citizens United decision.)
PFAW's video on Robert Bork reveals that Bork described the Civil Rights Act as "unsurpassed ugliness," believes that politicians should be able to outlaw birth control, believes that Constitution's promise of equal protection does not apply to women and that corporations can tell women that they must be sterilized or else get fired from their jobs. He also believes that the First Amendment does not apply to art, literature or science.