By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
Mitt Romney, who has taken hits from his Republican presidential rivals for his change of heart on abortion, had to explain earlier this year a donation that his wife made to Planned Parenthood.
Now, his campaign is trying to explain a photo, sent to several news organizations today, that shows him at a fund-raiser for the abortion provider.
Nicki Nichols Gamble, a former president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said today that the photo shows Mitt and Ann Romney at a private home in Cohasset in June 1994. At the time, Romney was hoping to unseat US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and eager to show his support for abortion rights, said Gamble, who is pictured in the photo with her back to the camera.
The photo "demonstrates again, and it's already been demonstrated, that Mitt Romney has changed his mind about whether he is pro-choice or anti-choice more than once, and that he seems to change his mind based on the practicality of the political situation," Gamble said in a telephone interview today. "In 1994, he was in a very tightly contested race with Ted Kennedy, who is pro-choice, and he seemed to embrace the pro-choice cause.”
Romney's campaign acknowledged in May that Ann made a $150 contribution to Planned Parenthood in 1994, but his spokesman Kevin Madden said at the time, "Since it was so long ago, Ann has no information of the circumstances."
Romney has said he changed his mind about abortion starting in 2004 after talking to scientists about stem cell research.
Romney dismissed any significance of the photo.
"I attend a lot of events when I run for office. I don't recall the specific event," Romney said while campaigning today in South Carolina, according to the Associated Press. "I think I've made it very clear. I was pro-choice, or effectively pro-choice, when I ran in 1994. As governor I'm pro-life and I have a record of being pro-life and I'm firmly pro-life today."
His campaign also issued this statement today: "Governor Romney is firmly pro-life and has made it clear that as president he will advocate for a culture that welcomes life and protects the sanctity of life. Like Ronald Reagan before him, the governor has changed his position on this issue and changed it in the right way. Governor Romney does not regret, and won’t apologize for the fact, that he has become pro-life."
On the photo specifically, the statement said, "As Mrs. Romney has stated previously, she is unfamiliar with the circumstances of a check she wrote close to 14 years ago. During his campaign for US Senate in 1994, it would not have been out of the ordinary for the governor to have attended an event, out of the hundreds that any candidate would attend during a campaign season, which involved a voter coalition and also have his wife accompanying him."