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Did Romney really lie about forcing Catholics to violate their consciences?

Did Romney really lie about forcing Catholics to violate their consciences?

An article at Boston Catholic Insider asserts that Mitt Romney lied during the Arizona debate about forcing Catholic Hospitals to provide the “morning after” pill to rape victims.

Here’s the debate passage (via Right Scoop):

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.”

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to fully vet the issue this morning, but one sentence in the BCI post caught my eye, and leads me to think the “lie” issue is not so clear.  Here is the quote (bold in original BCI post) from Romney which they say is key:

“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.”

“Information and access” is not the same thing as providing services.  This issue came up in the Scott Brown race, when the Massachusetts Democratic Party circulated the infamous “rape mailer” accusing Brown of seeking to deny such services to rape victims through support of a conscience clause in legislation.

The key was that Brown’s proposal was that the victims would be referred to another provider, thus satisfying the need for the service if the victim so chose, while preserving the religious exemption.

Viewed in that light, did Romney really lie?  I’m willing to be educated on this, but I’m not convinced yet.


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Windy City Commentary | February 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

It doesn’t seem to matter anymore if he lies. As expected the fickle voters have once again watched a debate and decided to jump back on the Romney bandwagon. He is now up 3 in one poll and up 6 in the latest Rasmussen poll. Big surprise, right? Once again Romney’s back is against wall, and the establishment does all it can to nuke his opponents, and then declare Mitt the big winner of the deciding debate, then little Mitt wins. It happened in Florida and it’s probably going to happen in Michigan. And of course, Mitt will have no problem in Arizona, where the Republican voters crown John McCain on a regular basis.

I can’t believe I agree with David Axelrod on something!

“The fact is that Mitt Romney has proven he is willing to say whatever he thinks he needs to say to close the deal with these Republican primary voters,” Axelrod said, repeating a line he’s used throughout the race.

The word “access” in the phrase “information and access” doesn’t mean “information”. It can only mean “provide the service”. What else is there?

Prof., what really is the difference here?

Romney was willing to compel religious hospitals to act as a PROXY. That is simply gnat-straining, not allowing them to exercise conscience.

It is tantamount to saying, “As a matter of conscience, I can’t inform on my Jewish neighbors, but I will give you the number of someone who can provide you that service.”

IFFFFFF the state has a compelling interest in providing that kind of information to a rape victim, they have the duty to provide it themselves. They have NO right to compel people to act against their scruples, dragooning them into a state proxy role.

NC Mountain Girl | February 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

Romney supporters see these verbal contortions as the sign of s skilled politician. The skeptics think he is merely too clever by half. His checkered success at the ballot box suggests the later view tends to prevail.

conservativegram | February 24, 2012 at 10:22 am

“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.”
“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.”

What am I missing here?

    The article cited here also provides background as to the reaction to Romney’s changing the law’s interpretation. Please note the clarification provided by Romney in the final quote below – which says to me: If the patient wants an abortion pill, the hospital has to provide it.

    “Democrats accused the governor of a ”flip-flop.”

    Catholic hospitals asserted: “It will be determined in the courtroom.”

    “Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly was asked yesterday if he expected to have to take any enforcement action against hospitals that don’t comply. ‘I certainly hope that it won’t come to that,’ he said.”

    “State Public Health Commissioner Paul Cote Jr. said in an interview Monday that his department felt strongly that the new emergency contraception law did not compel all hospitals to provide the morning-after pill.”

    “Romney said earlier through communications director,Eric Fehrnstrom that he supported the department’s ruling because it respected ‘the views of healthcare facilities that are guided by moral principles on this issue.'”

    “Asked yesterday to elaborate on that position, Romney said simply that the law was the law and that the state had to follow it. The governor characterized his own beliefs about emergency contraception this way: ‘My personal view, in my heart of hearts, is that people who are subject to rape should have the option of having emergency contraception or emergency contraception information.’

    Midwest Rhino in reply to conservativegram. | February 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t know if you’re missing anything, but Romney certainly had a team parsing the details to get his phrasing just right for the national debate. I’d guess Romney did come out with the statement you quoted, but Catholic hospitals were never forced to directly comply. They maybe compromised, so the Catholic hospital acted as proxy and provided the pill indirectly, by giving access through another hospital.

    So Romney was just being Romney … technically perhaps correct, that he never FORCED them to provide the pill, even after stating they were legally obligated.

    But the bold “No, absolutely not, of course not” should be interpreted from “Romneyspeak” as:

    “We tried to force them, they resisted, we recognized the political repercussions of force, so we made them a proxy, giving us both a way to lie about what we were really doing”

Wouldn’t that be like saying “We are not going to force you to commit murder, but, by law, you must become an accessory to our state sanctioned murder?”

I don’t know how becoming an acessory is supposed to ease the conscience or the religious beliefs of those who support life.

I’m not going to comment on Romney’s statements here directly, but I do want to clear something up that’s really got me a bit pissed off. Fair disclosure, I’m a Catholic, and I study Catholic healthcare ethics, so these issues are near and dear to me, that being said:

This is how the Media distorts the positions of groups to make it look like we (in this case Catholics) don’t care about women. They’ve taken a complex moral issue and boiled it down to utter and complete crap.
It is a fact that Catholic teachings do no allow the sepeartion of the “unitive and procreative” which is why birth control is not allowed. However, in the case of sexual assult the dual nature has already been distorted, thus the typical prohibitions don’t apply. (In fact, per normal moral theory the sperm represent a continued assult and should be stopped) Per the Ethical and religious directives (ERDs) for Cathlic hosptials (#36):

“Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault…If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

Most hospitals that I’m familiar with accept a simple urine pregnancy test (and a medical history) to satisify the requirement that fertilization has not occured. (There is an older protocol called the “Peoria Protocol*” which requires a blood test, but you rarely see that outside of some pretty conservative areas, of which anywhere in MA is probably not). So in reality, we’re really talking about a NON-ISSUE (sorry can’t figure out how to italics). provided the hospitals do not have to provide RU-486 or Ella (The latter not invented at the time, and the former not really be medically indicated until postitive proof of conception and implantation has been shown, which is really not possible at the stage at which these drugs are given, unless the pregnancy is prior to the rape by days or even weeks).

But Romney isn’t even Catholic and even in the case of Newt and Santorum they are not Moral theologians steeped in the tradition capable of making these distinctions (I doubt they consider them on a day to day basis). So did Romney lie? I don’t know, I’m not sure he could have considering most hospitals would have already been OK with handing out Birth Control in these particular instances. But the question gets asked (and phrased very particuarlly) to convince people that Conservatives (and Catholics) wouldn’t properly treat a rape victim.

Disclaimer: The Peoria protocol exists still because some groups still hold that Plan B causes an abortion. Per “Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis” 5th Edition (Ashely, Deblouis and O’Rourke) there is moral certainty (based on several scientific studies) that this is not the case. This argument was presented to the USCCB (Bishops) who agreed, and thus Plan B is acceeptable in Rape cases for Catholic hospitals, you still have a few hold outs, but that’s internal Church Politics. But the Peroria protocol doesn’t stop the handing out of the pill, it only requires more extensive testing to determine if fertilization has occured.

Windy City Commentary | February 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

Rasmussen has Romney +6 in Michigan and +13 in Arizona, and unfortunately, Rasmussen is never that wrong, so it looks like Romney will win MI and AZ and be set up for Super Tuesday. C’mon folks, did we really rest our not-Romney hopes on MI and AZ? MI is the home of Bart Stupak, John Dingell, Jennifer Granholm, etc., etc. AZ loves voting for linebackers like Janet Napolitano and loves voting for senility in John McCain over and over again, and they love holding Obama pep rallies to honor the dead.

I’m beginning to think we’re screwed.

    Who told you Rasmussen is never wrong? Was it Rasmussen?

    This is what he was saying yesterday:

      Windy City Commentary in reply to Say_What. | February 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

      I hope he is wrong, but I’ve seen this scenario repeat itself over and over this election cycle. Romney gets a last minute boost in a particular state primary, and it doesn’t stop until he wins that primary and then says he “doesn’t care about the poor” the next day.

        The last debate was a collaborative media/political hit on Santorum by Paul>Romney>RINOs>DC political establishment>maybe even Soros.

        The questions, camera angles, everything was planned to take Santorum down and build up Romney. Even holding this debate in a Mormon town.

        Here’s an analysis from a commenter here on the Arizona debate set-up:
        “As for the CNN producers calling camera shots, did you notice how they made sure that whenever Santorum was speaking, er, defending himself, Ron Paul was always on screen, same shot, mugging and giggling and waving his hands around? Made them both look like fools. Well, made Santorum look like a fool – it just confirmed that Paul is a fool. I’ve usually been simply amused at Paul’s wackiness, but tonight I wanted to slap his ass off his stool. That clown would get us all killed.

        Also, whenever Romney or Paul managed to get a protracted round of applause and yahoos after an answer, King held back and let it play out, but whenever Santorum or Gingrich won a round of applause and yahoos King immediately cut it off by beginning his next question, often having to yell over the audience to do it.”

        The cancellations of the GA and CA debates were designed to stop and silence Newt and prevent Newt from regaining in the polls. How could the ‘chosen one’ Romney deal with Newt’s home state advantage in GA and at the Reagan Library in CA.

        They also hinted that Arizona was the last debate though there is another scheduled for March 19 in Oregon. Evidently that one may be cancelled – UNLESS – their precious Romney’s campaign needs a shot in the arm.

          Windy City Commentary in reply to Uncle Samuel. | February 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm

          I don’t understand why they had to be sitting for the debate in the first place. Santorum shouldn’t have pulled out of the GA debate. If he hadn’t backed out, it would still be on and he’d get another chance. The audience was obviously stacked with pro-Romney people once again.

          Also, why wouldn’t the GOP be willing to hold a debate in Michigan to help boost their economy?

    Time to get back behind Newt!

Windy City Commentary | February 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

National Romney Online is all in for Mitt now. Get your Mitt ’12 Bumper Stickers, it’s over, it’s Mitt’s turn! You have to pass the National Review white glove test, or you cannot be the Republican nominee, and by the way, Romney is exempt from having to take that white glove test. FU National Review.

I’ve completely lost interest in the Republican party. They are ideologically and morally bankrupt losers and, in Mitt Romney, are headed for defeat. The only glimmer of hope is the possibility of chaos at the convention and a kind of political “intervention”, i.e., a violent (figuratively speaking) grassroots challenge and overthrow. Such an event is unlikely, but at the same time, conditions for it have never been more ideal, and if the frustrated energies of the base were let loose within a contained and compressed environment the GOP establishment wouldn’t stand a chance. The establishment knows this, and will attempt totalitarian-like control of events — which will only increase odds of a revolt.

Beyond that, I expect to see the final collapse of the GOP under a Romney nomination, and look forward to the formation of new political party or movement either in its place or by taking over and reforming its structure.

“access” would appear to me as providing a service. As several have stated I don’t think it will really matter because Romney got the “boost” he wanted.

Mitt will do or say anything he has to to win. I’ve said all along that Romney is “Obama-lite.” I believe he has shown that on many occasions.

The timeline, along with the 2005 quote of Romney in the Globe, not to mention the liberal AP, sound pretty conclusive that Romney lied in the debate.

Newt certainly thought so, since he said “Nice try” sotto voce to Romney before responding to Romney’s denial. If Romney merely mandated referral for these services, the articles would reflect that – but they don’t.

Here is the American Spectator ppost, and the BCI timeline.

(Disclosure-I put these links on the LI “Tips” line.)

    DINORightMarie in reply to DINORightMarie. | February 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Here is the video of the entire debate. Watch at 0:51:10 mark for Newt’s response (and his sotto voce comment to Romney). (Newt didn’t “lean” toward Mittens when he made the comment; thank goodness for YouTube video to keep me straight!!) 😉

      Hope Change in reply to DINORightMarie. | February 24, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Hi DINORightMarie —

      hah! “Nice try” great line —

      Thanks, DINORightMarie!

      Newt, as usual, explains the real deal.

      Thanks for the video link and the exact time frame.

      Newt is the man with the plan. Newt is the only candidate who can facilitate our return to the prosperity road.

      Newt is the closest thing to Ronald Reagan that we’ve got.

Well, I guess it depends on how you interpret Catholic doctrine on material involvement in a grave evil.

Emergency contraception is still contraception, so there’s that problem.

The phrase ‘hospitals to provide access to’ implies some sort of gatekeeper function, direct participation, or assistance – at a minimum – (else it would be something the rape victim could simply do for herself.)

But this is merely smoke screen.

The issue turns on whether Romney’s admonition of what was ‘right’ carried more weight, or force of law, than that of any other individual, and in this instance it did.

From the article:

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.

As with all things Romney, it matter little what he said, it is what he – through his State Department of Public Health – did that matters.

He ordered the hospitals to participate.

    tsrblke in reply to ThomasD. | February 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Bah! Read my post. Catholic teaching isn’t “Anti-contraception at all times and places” per the Ethical and Religious Directives. Frankly we’ve played right into the Left’s hands on this. We’re effectively arguing over a nonissue while the left spins it into “see they hate women.” Brilliant everyone, brilliant. I blame all parties involved on this one, and my apathy towards all the canidates grows each day.

      ThomasD in reply to tsrblke. | February 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      So long as sperm are viable conception can occur and, at that point, Plan B most certainly would interfere with implantation. That is exactly how the drug works

      But that is not the original question.

      As your prior comment notes that other question remains open for debate even among Catholics. And therefore should be left up to Catholics to decide

      The original question is: Did Mitt Romneyvorder Catholic hospitals to engage in acts that might violate their religious beliefs. And therefor was his subsequent statement at the debate a lie?

      And the answer is: Yes he most certainly did order the hospitals to violate their beliefs, and therefore he did lie at the debate.

      And if decrying government coercion that renders the 1st Amendment moot, or calling politicians out for their squishy weasel worded attempts to hide their true acts is “playing into the hands of the left” then this Republic is already done for.

        tsrblke in reply to ThomasD. | February 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

        I’m not going to try to get into “reasonable moral certainty” or why most hospitals don’t use the Peoria protocol, suffice it to say, that from a Catholic Moral standpoint the issue is moot (See:*

        Did Romney lie? Eh, maybe, probably, even. And I understand the desire to call out the government overreach. But eventually someone else is going to get to the point that most Catholic hospitals already provide Plan B to rape victims and it differs from the insurance debate because it’s considered morally licit (wheras the Catholics using BC for personal reasons is not).
        Secondly, there are losing arguments, and this seems to be one of those. It’s will (and likely is, I haven’t looked) be cast as a “See Republicans hate Rape victims” thing. There’s no way around that. If there’s one place I think most independents (and maybe even most center-right Republicans would be OK with Gov’t interference, it’s the care of Rape victims.)

        I’m not privvy to everything that went on during that period of time in MA between the Church and the State, perhaps (since the Peoria Protocol was on the way out) the Church decided not to pursue the waivers anymore. Maybe (likely even) Romney put too heavy a hand on it. In either case this particular arugment is a losing one across the board.

        *Yes, I know that’s from the Catholic Health Association, who has severely screwed up lately with their pandering towards the Obama administration. 3 Comments on that: 1)That was before Sr. Keehan took over (back when CHA was not involved in politics) 2) That’s one source among many including those who aren’t exactly on CHA’s side right now. (it just hapens to be the easiest accessable one right now, since many others are books or articles behind pay walls) 3) The Bishops agreed with it.

          ThomasD in reply to tsrblke. | February 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

          An why would you ‘get into’ issues of “reasonable moral certainty” given that on matters of faith those are for the individual to decide?

          Unless, of course, you are perfectly willing to accept government coercion in violation of the very words contained within the Constitution.

          Because that is the issue, not whether some may -as a matter of conscience- choose to do, or think otherwise. ‘Most’ having, theologically and Constitutionally, no bearing on the matter.

          Some Catholics do not wish to provide Plan B as a matter of religious conscience. None of which is inconsistent with Catholic doctrine.

          Mitt Romney ordered they behave otherwise, then lied about his own order.

          The First Amendment protects the individual yet Mitt Romney is fine with the state overriding this protection of conscience.

          You somehow see it problematic to expressly point this out.


          tsrblke in reply to tsrblke. | February 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

          The discussion is rarely had about the defense of the indivudal however. It’s about the institutions. I’ll conceede the mandate is stupid (and ultimately unneeded). I’m just tired of the fact that it’s always characterized as “The Catholic Church doesn’t want X” when in this case that’s not really true (so it’s a mischaracterization of the belief stucture.) Yes, there may be individuals who are holding a different standard, but the bulk of the framing has been “the big Catholic church wants to stop this from happening”
          Much like the whole “states banning contraception” thing which I still feel was more of a soundbite distraction than anything else (designed to get people to make bad soundbites that could be played by the DNC over and over) this particular dicussion may have been largely irrelevent given the actual conditions in at the time. It wouldn’t be the first time the Dem’s have put up a bill that wasn’t actually designed to do anything no already being done, with the intent of forcing republicans into a “bad soundbite” situation. That’s my big problem.

On Thursday — one day before the Indiana Election Commission was to weigh challenges to ballot access by Santorum and other candidates — the Marion County Board of Voter Registration said Santorum had more than enough signatures for inclusion on the ballot.

“I am very pleased and happy for all citizens of the state of Indiana, many of whom would like to have the chance to vote for Rick Santorum for president,” said state Sen. Mike Delph, a Carmel Republican who is supporting Santorum’s bid for the White House.

Romney lied? Is water wet?

Apparently Dan Riehl also believe that Romney lied – or at least stretched the truth to its thinnest.

StrangernFiction | February 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I can’t help but wonder if Obama’s decision to force Catholic institutions to violate their faith has Willard’s name on it.

“Hey there Mitt, you did it first.”


“Hi, I’m Mitt Romney and I am running for President. For the next several days I will talk (and talk and talk) about the issues, from any different points of view…just stop me when you hear something you like.”

Here’s a newsflash for anyone who is afraid of how the left will spin this as “we don’t care about rape victims.”

I’m not a leftist. So I don’t agree with them even when they aren’t being lying, dishonest sackweasels.

Why would I ever attempt to play defense based upon their willful and malign misrepresentations of the issues at hand?

Unless I wanted them to succeed, that is…

My response to their dishonest rhetoric?

A criminal victimizes some poor person so that means the state gets to victimize someone else who is merely trying to help as best they can?

How else to respond to evil, other than to directly refute it?