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Mass. Emergency Contraception Bill Vetoed

Associated Press | July 26, 2005
By THEO EMERY

BOSTON (AP) - For weeks, speculation has mounted over what Gov. Mitt Romney, who's contemplating a 2008 presidential run, would do with a bill expanding access to emergency contraception.

Romney dispelled that uncertainty on Monday, as he returned to Massachusetts from vacation to veto the legislation just hours after it landed on his desk. The largely symbolic veto unleashed a flood of praise from anti-abortion activists and fury from abortion rights advocates.

The Republican governor explained his decision by saying that the medication prevents fertilization, but can also halt a fertilized egg from developing - something anti-abortion groups oppose.

``If it only dealt with contraception, I wouldn't have a problem with it,'' Romney said.

The issue over the so-called ``morning after pill'' has taken on unexpected prominence because of the widely held view that Romney is trying to court conservative voters who would be key to a presidential run.

Romney said during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign that he did support wider access to emergency contraception. But after the legislation began to make its way through the Legislature, he said he needed to consult with experts on its impact.

Outside the governor's office, a group of young women wore T-shirts and held placards reading, ``Mitt Romney - keep your word. Sign the EC bill.'' As Romney's press conference let out, they chanted ``Mitt Romney, we want the pill! Why did you veto the bill?''

The bill would require hospital emergency room doctors to offer the medication to rape victims, and would make it available without prescription from pharmacies. A provision that exempted Roman Catholic hospitals was dropped from the legislation.

The medication, which is different from the abortion pill RU-486, is a hormone in pill form which, when taken after unprotected sex, prevents ovulation, stops the egg from being fertilized by sperm, or stops a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterus wall.

The bill passed with veto-proof margins in both the House and Senate. It was not immediately clear when a veto override might take place. The Legislature has adjourned for the summer, and leaders could either call lawmakers back or wait until the session resumes in September. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini planned to meet and decide what to do.

National anti-abortion groups said they were pleased with the decision. Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, called Romney's veto ``a positive'' that would likely be viewed favorably by anti-abortion voters.

``I think that pro-life politics will be very important in the next election, as they proved to be in the last election,'' she said.

But critics lashed out.

``His real motivation is his political ambitions, not the health and welfare of Massachusetts women,'' Sen. Susan Fargo, a Democrat and Senate chairwoman of the Committee on Public Health, said in a statement.

In an opinion article in Tuesday's Boston Globe, Romney discussed his veto.

``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,'' he wrote.

 

 

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