YESTERDAY I vetoed a bill that the Legislature forwarded to my desk. Though described by its sponsors as a measure relating to contraception, there is more to it than that. The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception.
Signing such a measure into law would violate the promise I made to the citizens of Massachusetts when I ran for governor. I pledged that I would not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it. What's more, this particular bill does not require parental consent even for young teenagers. It disregards not only the seriousness of abortion but the importance of parental involvement and so would weaken a protection I am committed to uphold.
I have spoken with medical professionals to determine whether the drug contemplated under the bill would simply prevent conception or whether it would also terminate a living embryo after conception. Once it became clear that the latter was the case, my decision was straightforward. I will honor the commitment I made during my campaign: While I do not favor abortion, I will not change the state's abortion laws.
I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth. I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.
Because Massachusetts is decidedly prochoice, I have respected the state's democratically held view. I have not attempted to impose my own views on the prochoice majority.
For all the conflicting views on this issue, it speaks well of our country that we recognize abortion as a problem. The law may call it a right, but no one ever called it a good, and, in the quiet of conscience people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.
You can't be a prolife governor in a prochoice state without understanding that there are heartfelt and thoughtful arguments on both sides of the question. Many women considering abortions face terrible pressures, hurts, and fears; we should come to their aid with all the resourcefulness and empathy we can offer. At the same time, the starting point should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.
In some respects, these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor. In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead -- to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited.
I have also observed the bitterness and fierce anger that still linger 32 years after Roe v. Wade. The majority in the US Supreme Court's Casey opinion assured us this would pass away as Americans learned to live with abortion on demand. But this has proved a false hope.
There is much in the abortion controversy that America's founders would not recognize. Above all, those who wrote our Constitution would wonder why the federal courts had peremptorily removed the matter from the authority of the elected branches of government. The federal system left to us by the Constitution allows people of different states to make their own choices on matters of controversy, thus avoiding the bitter battles engendered by ''one size fits all" judicial pronouncements. A federalist approach would allow such disputes to be settled by the citizens and elected representatives of each state, and appropriately defer to democratic governance.
Except on matters of the starkest clarity like the issue of banning partial-birth abortions, there is not now a decisive national consensus on abortion. Some parts of the country have prolife majorities, others have prochoice majorities. People of good faith on both sides of the issue should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums -- with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that democratic majorities will prevail. We will never have peace on the abortion issue, much less a consensus of conscience, until democracy is allowed to work its way.
Mitt Romney is governor of Massachusetts.