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Romney releases mother's statement on abortion issue

Governor Mitt Romney, who has said his abortion stance dates to his mother's 1970 run for US Senate, released a campaign document yesterday that an aide said showed his mother supported abortion rights.

Lenore Romney, an unsuccessful candidate for US Senate in Michigan, said in her platform, ''I support and recognize the need for more liberal abortion rights while reaffirming the legal and medical measures needed to protect the unborn and pregnant woman [sic]." She also endorsed ''greatly expanded programs of providing adequate family planning services to all those who want but can't afford them," adding that ''I would oppose any governmental coercion of parents."

It was not clear what specific positions Lenore Romney was advocating in the statement, and the governor and his press office declined to elaborate on it.

Joseph E. Kincaid, vice president of Michigan Right to Life since the time of Lenore Romney's run for office, said he couldn't recall her being an advocate for abortion rights. ''I would think that her stand pro or against was quite muffled," Kincaid said. Told of the document the Romney press office released yesterday, he said: ''I think you could read that either way. It seems like she's being a pragmatic politician on that statement."

In Michigan in 1970, performing or securing an abortion was a felony.

According to Pulitzer Prize winning historian David J. Garrow's account of the period, ''Liberty & Sexuality," advocates unsuccessfully introduced legislation to decriminalize abortion in the state in 1967, 1970, and 1971. In 1972, Michigan voters defeated a referendum to repeal the state's abortion law by 61 percent to 39 percent. Former governor William Milliken and his wife, Helen, supported that repeal.

Milliken -- who served as lietenant governor when George Romney, Mitt's father, was governor -- told Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara that George and Lenore Romney did not join them in that campaign.

Mitt Romney's abortion position is at issue as he weighs whether to run for president. He said recently that he is in a ''different place" than he was in 1994, when during a run for US Senate in Massachusetts he said abortion should be ''safe and legal" and cited his mother's views.

He also said during the 1994 campaign that his view was shaped by the abortion-related death of a relative in the 1960s.

As he courts more conservative voters in the runup to the 2008 presidential primaries, Romney has been stressing that he is ''personally prolife," but activists on both sides of the issue have expressed frustration with his position.

In Sunday's Globe, McNamara quoted Milliken and former Republican National Committee cochairwoman Elly Peterson as saying they could not recall Lenore Romney being outspoken on abortion rights.

Both were active supporters of Lenore Romney's campaign.

The governor declined to talk about the questions surrounding his mother's stance yesterday.

''I'll talk with you about that at another time," he told the Globe.

Lenore Romney died in 1998.

Her 1970 campaign platform was issued three years before the US Supreme Court legalized abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

In an October 1994 debate with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, Romney said: ''I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it."