Â Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney sought to dispel doubts about his opposition to abortion while campaigning Friday in the heart of South Carolina’s Bible Belt.”I am firmly pro-life,” the former Massachusetts governor told about 100 Republicans at a restaurant here. “I was always for life.”
When pressed about his former stance in favor of abortion rights, Romney said he knew he could do nothing to change the law while governor. “Every act I’ve taken as governor has been in favor of life,” he said.
While appealing for the support of moderate and liberal voters in his 2002 race for governor and in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 1994, Romney positioned himself as a supporter of abortion rights. He said the death of a teenage relative during the 1960s from a botched abortion had convinced him that the procedure should be made safe and legal.
Two years ago, he reversed that position, saying that learning of the destruction of embryos used for stem cell research had convinced him that abortion had “cheapened the value of human life.”
Abortion is a key issue among the state’s religious conservatives, an important voting bloc in the first Southern primary in the nation next year.
Dick White, a conservative whose wife used to lead the county branch of the Christian Coalition, said Romney simply needs to stick to his guns.
“If he follows through with his conservative philosophies, he won’t have a problem,” White said.
While meeting with Republican activists in Des Moines, Iowa, the previous evening, Romney conceded that the war in Iraq has been poorly managed and may hurt Republican candidates again next year. However, he refused to oppose the course President Bush has charted.
Romney, who was meeting with activists across central Iowa, told The Associated Press that his support for Bush will not hurt his chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination.
“I think politically the pundits would tell you you should get as far away from the president as you can, you should establish a different view, you should say it is wrong,” said Romney, who is set to formally enter the presidential race next week. “That may well be the political right thing to do, but it just happens to be the wrong thing to do.”