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Changing views

When Governor Mitt Romney steps down next month, he will depart Beacon Hill a far more conservative voice on social issues than when he arrived in 2002 and when he ran for Senate in 1994. On stem cell research, abortion, emergency contraception, abstinence education, and gay rights, Romney has distanced himself from the more moderate positions he has held in the past.

A Gay Pride Weekend flier from 2002 touted Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey. A Gay Pride Weekend flier from 2002 touted Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey.

Stem cell research

Then: Romney strongly endorsed stem cell research during the 2002 campaign, though he was silent on the controversial technique of "therapeutic cloning," or cloning human embryos. "I am in favor of stem cell research," he said on June 13, 2002, at a Brandeis University bioethics forum. "I will work and fight for stem cell research. . . . I'd be happy to talk to [President Bush] about this, though I don't know if I could budge him an inch."

Now: After consulting with ethicists and researchers, Romney in 2005 came out strongly against therapeutic cloning. "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 commodity," Romney wrote in a July 2005 op-ed column in the Globe.

Abortion

Then: In 1994 and 2002, Romney expressed strong support for abortion rights. "I respect and will protect a women's right to choose," he wrote in a 2002 NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts questionnaire. "This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government's."

Now: Romney said his education on stem cell research led him to reevaluate his position. "I'm committed to promoting the culture of life," Romney said in an interview with the National Review last week. "Like Ronald Reagan, and [former Illinois congressman] Henry Hyde, and others who became pro life, I had this issue wrong in the past."

Emergency contraception

Then: In the 2002 campaign, Romney answered "yes" to this question from the Planned Parenthood: "Do you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception?"

Now: In July 2005, Romney vetoed a bill to make emergency contraception available over the counter at Massachusetts pharmacies and to require hospitals to make it available to rape victims. "Though described by its sponsors as a measure relating to contraception, there is more to it than that," he wrote in the Globe op-ed. "The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception."

Abstinence

Then: In 2002, Romney said "yes" on a NARAL survey to this question: "Do you support comprehensive, age-appropriate family life/sexuality education in the public schools, and oppose 'abstinence-only' sexuality programs?"

Now: This year, Romney's administration, using federal grant money, contracted with a program called Healthy Futures to provide abstinence-only education for 12- to 14-year-olds in select public schools.

Gay rights

Then: In the 1994 race against Senator Edward Kennedy, Romney said he would provide "more effective leadership" on winning "full equality" for gays and lesbians, opposed a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and said gays should be able to serve openly in the military.

Now: Romney continues to stress "respect and tolerance" toward gays and lesbians, but he also has pressed Congress to pass a federal same-sex marriage ban, sought to change state antidiscrimination laws so a Catholic adoption agency could deny services to gay couples, and no longer advocates gays serving openly in the armed forces.

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