Romney’s 1994 Case For Preserving Access To Abortion Still Rings True Today

Our guest blogger is Annabel Hogg, special assistant to the Domestic Policy team working with the Education, Health, and Women’s Rights departments.

In a 1994 Massachusetts Senate race debate, Mitt Romney revealed why he supported the option of safe and legal abortions for all women: when Romney was a teenager, a close family relative died as a result of an illegal abortion. The identity of this relative, however, was never revealed until now.

In 1963, Ann Keenan, the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law, died of an infection as a result of a back alley abortion. Keenan, 21 at the time of her death, was a former high school class president who had gone on to attend Michigan State University. Keenan’s devastated parents asked for memorial tributes to be made to the “Planned Parenthood Association.” It is the same organization Romney now vows to defund if he is elected president (even though Romney and his wife attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 1994).

Keenan’s death occurred 10 years before Roe v. Wade was decided and came at a time when women who found themselves with an unintended pregnancy had few options.


Before Roe, as many as 5,000 women died per year as a result of illegal abortions. The legalization of abortion caused the number of pregnancy related-deaths and hospitalizations from unsafe abortions to plummet. The relationship between legal abortion and the protection of women’s health is undeniable.

Despite the existence of Roe, abortions rights are being curtailed at an alarming rate in various states throughout the country. There have been over 900 anti-abortion laws introduced since the 2010 midterm elections.

A majority of 2012 GOP presidential candidates have even signed a pledge by a right to life group that calls for the appointment of only pro-life judges, cabinet members, and agency secretaries with the intent of restricting the health rights of women in regard to abortion. (Romney refuses to sign the pledge, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the most recent candidate to endorse it.)

This extreme anti-abortion rights climate helps explain Romney’s about face on abortion from his 1994 stance, but it does not excuse it.