Yikes. Can you say hello Stephen Douglas? Hello popular sovereignty? Here's the full quote from the ABC story:
"My view is that the Supreme Court has made an error in saying at the national level one size fits all for the whole nation," Romney told Nevada political columnist Jon Ralston in a televised interview. "Instead, I would let states make their choices."ABC responded (correctly) that as recent as August 6, Romney voiced support for the proposed Human Life Amendment--which, if enacted, provides the unborn with protection under the 14th Amendment, thus banning abortion at the federal level. Romney's campaign sought to deflect the apparent contradiction by saying that while the candidate supports the amendment and is truly pro-life, he does not think it's "achievable" at this time.
Asked by Ralston if it was "OK" with him that Nevada is a "pro-choice state," Romney said, "I'd let states make their own decision in this regard. My view, of course, is I'm a pro-life individual. That's the position I support. But, I'd let states have this choice rather than let the federal government have it."
That last point is fair enough: There's no disputing that anything remotely resembling a Human Life Amendment is DOA with the Pelosi-Reid congress. To avoid trouble, all Romney had to say was that he supports an amendment and until we get one, the federal courts should not foreclose on state laws protecting the unborn. What pro-lifer could argue with that? (The secondary headline on the piece claims he said as much, but the article itself tells a different story.) However, Romney did more than describe the current political landscape. He said while he is a pro-life "individual," states should have the right to decide the abortion question for themselves and the federal government should stay out of it. From a pro-life perspective, that's a deeply problematic resolution to the question "Where do basic human rights come from in the first place?"
The Founders and Lincoln gave a much better answer than Romney, distinguishing natural human rights from merely legal ones. Natural rights are those rights that you have simply because you are human. They are grounded in your human nature and you have them from the moment you begin to exist. For example, you have a natural right not to be harmed without justification as well as a natural right not to be convicted of a crime without a fair trial. Government does not grant these basic rights. Rather, government’s role is to protect them. In contrast, legal (or positive) rights are those rights you can only acquire through accomplishment or maturity. These rights originate from the government and include the right to vote at your eighteenth birthday and a right to drive on your sixteenth. But your natural right to live was there all along. It comes to be when you come to be.
The distinction between natural and legal (positive) rights was underscored dramatically in the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates. At issue was this question: Were the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence natural ones or were they merely the creation of positive law? Lincoln argued for the former: The claim “All men are created equal” meant that no man by nature is the ruler of another man in the way man by nature rules a dog. If the slave is a man, those same rights found in the Declaration (including the right to liberty) apply to him as they do the white man. In short, the slave was a human being with certain rights that spring from his nature and those rights hold across time and place. They are present whenever beings with a human nature are present, meaning neither government nor popular opinion could legitimately deny them. Douglas took the latter position, suggesting that who was and was not a bearer of rights depended on popular sovereignty. Unlike Lincoln, he acknowledged no truths grounded in the nature of human beings that would hold across time and place. Instead, we only have those rights granted through positive law. Southern states did not count slaves as bearers of rights, meaning lawmakers could settle the issue as they saw fit.
The moral logic of the pro-life view--apparently missed by Romney--is that elective abortion unjustly robs the unborn of his natural right to life and thus NO state can legitimately allow the practice. From California to Massachusetts, the natural rights of the unborn transcend any laws generated by the states.
With his latest abortion soundbite, the once pro-choice governor and current pro-life candidate appears to embrace the popular sovereignty of Stephen Douglas, a doctrine that once killed slaves because they were too black and now kills fetuses because they are too small.
Mitt, you gotta do better. Fire your speech writer and call Frank Beckwith, immediately.