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Romney Announces Emergency Contraception Bill Veto
By Amy Lambiaso for the State House News Service
       Saying the proposal would change the state’s abortion laws, Gov. Mitt Romney returned from his vacation in New Hampshire on Monday to announce his veto of legislation expanding access to emergency contraception, just three hours after it had reached his desk.
       The governor’s decision fueled speculation at the capitol that Romney was appealing to voters nationally, rather than in Massachusetts, as he
continues to weigh a run for president in 2008.
       “That means he’s running for president,” said one leading lawmaker, who asked not to be named. “If he was looking to run for governor again, he wouldn’t have vetoed it.”
       In his veto message to the Legislature, Romney reiterated his campaign pledge to maintain the status quo on abortion laws in the state during his time in office, and questioned the availability of the so-called morning-after pill to women of all ages. Further, he said, the pill is already “widely available” in the state.
       “I promised the people of Massachusetts that as governor I would not change the laws of the Commonwealth as they relate to abortion,” Romney wrote in his veto message. “The bill before me would change those laws and for that reason I am vetoing it.”
       The pro-life lobby immediately applauded Romney’s veto, saying the action is consistent with his campaign promise to maintain the status quo, while pro-choice groups decried it as contradictory to his response to a 2002 candidate questionnaire.
       “When he ran for governor, he made a commitment to support improved access to emergency contraception,” said Melissa Kogut, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “Today he has not only let down the women and families of the Commonwealth, but he has not kept his word.”
       According to NARAL, Romney answered “yes” on a candidate questionnaire when asked if he would support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception. Responding to a question from a reporter later during a roundtable interview in his State House office, Romney said he supports expanding access to contraception, but said this “product” goes further than that and, in some cases, “terminates life.”
       “That’s not what this product does,” Romney said. “If this dealt only with contraception, then again that wouldn’t be a problem.”
       Romney said he has recently spoken to doctors, hospital representatives, and officials at the Department of Public Health regarding the pill and was told there are no problems or complaints with women accessing the pill.
       “This is a solution looking for a problem,” Romney told reporters.
Supporters of the bill said Romney had not spoken with young rape victims
who had opted for abortions because they did not access emergency
contraception. And they said one reason complaints are down is that state
public health officials are working with them to raise awareness about
emergency contraception.
       The legislation, approved by veto-proof margins in the House and Senate, would require all hospital emergency rooms to make the pill available to rape victims and allow women and girls to access the pill from specially trained pharmacists without a prescription.
       Dianne Luby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of
Massachusetts, said Romney is “absolutely incorrect” in assuming the pill
is currently widely available. Currently, five in six hospitals offer the
pill to rape victims, she said. “But if they go to the wrong hospital, they
don’t get the pill.”
       Known as the morning-after pill, or often Plan B, the pill works by slowing ovulation to prevent fertilization. According to the Food and Drug
Administration, if fertilization does occur, the pill may prevent the fertilized egg from being implanted in the woman’s uterus. The pill is unsuccessful if the egg has been implanted prior to taking Plan B, according to the FDA.
       “To those who believe that life begins at conception, the morning-after pill can destroy the human life that was created at the moment of
fertilization,” Romney said in his message.
       Supporters of the legislation argue that the pill will reduce the number of abortions performed each year in Massachusetts, but as Romney argues, opponents say the pill triggers an abortion.
       “We’re happy with this,” said Marie Sturgis, executive director of
Massachusetts Citizens For Life. “I think it’s in keeping with the
governor’s campaign promise. He’s being consistent to the voters of the
Commonwealth.” Sturgis pointed out that Romney also ran for governor in 2002 on a promise not to change the state’s parental consent laws. In his veto message, the governor says the legislation would weaken the state’s consent laws because the pill would be available to young girls without any restrictions on age.
       “Because the morning-after pill can abort the implantation of an embryo, this bill undermines the state’s parental consent laws and represents a departure from the public consensus that minor children should not act without parental involvement in these matters,” the governor wrote.
       Sen. Pamela Resor (D-Acton), chief sponsor of the legislation, issued a
statement that she was “deeply angered” by the veto. “For Governor Romney to put his own political aspirations before the safety, health and
well-being of women across the Commonwealth is irresponsible, especially
sad is the message this sends to women who have been victimized by the
violence of rape.”
       House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi issued a statement Monday saying Romney “missed an important opportunity to protect rape victims of all ages from the adverse mental and physical health complications that result from their victimization.”
       “The governor misunderstands the effects of this medication and regrettably misinterprets how this bill’s provisions would apply to existing state abortion laws,” DiMasi added.
       His spokeswoman, Kimberly Haberlin said the Speaker would need to talk to Senate President Robert Travaglini about when an override vote would take place. Vetoes must be overridden with a roll call vote supported by two thirds of lawmakers in both branches. Roll calls must occur during formal sessions, which are presently due to resume after Labor
Day.

 
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