An upcoming book about Mitt Romney claims that the GOP presidential candidate, then a Mormon Bishop, once pressured a woman to give her unborn baby up for adoption.
Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, adapting portions of their book The Real Romney for this month's issue of Vanity Fair, recount the 1983 pregnancy saga of Peggie Hayes. According to the book, Hayes was a single mother raising a young daughter at the time. Romney was her church leader and helped set up the 23-year-old nurse's aide with what the authors describe as "odd jobs for other church members." Hayes recalled that Romney "was really good to us. He did a lot for us."
When Hayes became pregnant that year, Romney sat down with her and "said something about the church's adoption agency." Hayes, who recalled that she "wanted to" have the second child, eventually came to the realization that Romney "was urging her to give up her soon-to-be-born son for adoption, saying that was what the church wanted." More from Vanity Fair:
Hayes was deeply insulted. She told him she would never surrender her child. Sure, her life wasn't exactly the picture of Rockwellian harmony, but she felt she was on a path to stability. In that moment, she also felt intimidated. Here was Romney, who held great power as her church leader and was the head of a wealthy, prominent Belmont family, sitting in her gritty apartment making grave demands. "And then he says, 'Well, this is what the church wants you to do, and if you don't, then you could be excommunicated for failing to follow the leadership of the church,'" Hayes recalled. It was a serious threat. At that point Hayes still valued her place within the Mormon Church. "This is not playing around," she said. "This is not like 'You don't get to take Communion.' This is like 'You will not be saved. You will never see the face of God.'" Romney would later deny that he had threatened Hayes with excommunication, but Hayes said his message was crystal clear: "Give up your son or give up your God."
Hayes eventually decided to have the baby, but when she did give birth to her son Dane, he had health problems that required surgery:
Looking past their uncomfortable conversation before Dane's birth, she called Romney and asked him to come to the hospital to confer a blessing on her baby. Hayes was expecting him. Instead, two people she didn't know showed up. She was crushed. "I needed him," she said. "It was very significant that he didn't come." Sitting there in the hospital, Hayes decided she was finished with the Mormon Church.
The book goes on to explain that Romney "acknowledged having counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in exceptional cases, in accordance with church rules," while he served in a leadership capacity in the church.
The Peggie Hayes story adds to the GOP contender's already complicated history involving women's reproductive issues.
While challenging Ted Kennedy in a 1994 U.S. Senate race, "Romney said he believed that abortion should be 'safe and legal' and that Roe v. Wade should stand. He added, 'And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.'"
As HuffPost's Laura Bassett reports, Romney in 2002 "sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts by filling out a questionnaire that made his continued support clear." In addition, he "pledged his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects women's choice, for laws protecting the safety of abortion clinics, for increased access to the morning-after pill and for late-term abortions when the mother's health is at risk. Romney also indicated on the form that he supported the 'state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women.'"
Romney has since changed course on abortion. Bassett recently reported on an ad released by Newt Gingrich's campaign that attacked Romney as "pro-abortion." The story clarifies Romney's current position:
To be clear, Romney is not, as the Gingrich ad accuses, "pro-abortion" or even pro-contraception. He supports overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects a woman's right to have an abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb. And although he attended Planned Parenthood fund-raisers and supported taxpayer funding for abortion before changing his stance in 2005, Romney now says he would eliminate the Title X family planning program, which funds Planned Parenthood and provides affordable contraception and other basic medical care to millions of uninsured and low-income women.