Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the Times writes about a strong woman in Mitt Romney's life:
Political Lessons, From a Mother’s Losing Run
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Mitt Romney was 22 when his father came to him and his siblings in search of political advice in December 1969. George Romney, the former Michigan governor, was mulling the electoral prospects of another Romney: his wife, Lenore.
A onetime Hollywood starlet who quit acting to get married, Lenore Romney had few political credentials. But she had been a popular first lady, and her husband was tied up in Washington as President Richard M. Nixon’s new housing secretary. Top Michigan Republicans were wooing her to run for a United States Senate seat.
“The children laughed about it,” Elly Peterson, a Romney confidante and party strategist, later wrote in a private memoir. “Then Mitt, first, and gradually the others, began to change their minds. They finally decided she should go with it.”
Today Mitt Romney is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, facing a tough primary battle here in the state where he grew up. His Michigan campaign brochures and commercials are studded with black-and-white images of him with his father, a businessman-turned-politician he once called “the real deal.”
But a look at the lesser-known Romney, Lenore, suggests that in style, temperament and outlook, Mitt Romney is very much his mother’s son.
Well, fine. But her passage on abortion is absurdly light:
On one issue — abortion — Mr. Romney has explicitly cited his mother’s views as the basis for his own. During his 1994 race against Mr. Kennedy, and again in 2002 when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, he told voters that his mother personally opposed abortion but had taken “a very bold and courageous stand” in arguing that “a woman should have her own right to choose.” He said he felt the same way.
Longtime Michigan Republicans and political analysts, however, do not remember Lenore Romney making that argument, and what she truly believed is unclear. Abortion was legal in Michigan only to save the life of the mother; the Romney-Hart race played out three years before the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and abortion was not an issue.
“Nobody was talking about it,” Mr. Ballenger said.
Internal documents from the Lenore Romney campaign, archived at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, do hint that her aides were urging her to speak out in favor of expanding access to abortion. In one nebulously worded research memorandum, they concluded it was “more important to lessen the physical and mental dangers” than to “attempt legislated morality.” But in 1972, two years after she lost, Mrs. Romney made her personal opposition clear, much as Mitt Romney eventually did after he was elected governor.
“I am not for destroying life,” she told an interviewer then, describing her response when the question came up during speeches on college campuses. “And then I ask them, if later, they would want to kill all the old or abandoned people in the world.”
That's it? Will Saletan of Slate had much more, including this obviously important family tragedy:
Romney’s family had its first, fatal brush with abortion in 1963. Romney was 16. His father was the governor of Michigan. Mitt’s sister was married to a young man with a 21-year-old sister who was pregnant. The pregnant young woman, Ann Keenan, desperately wanted an abortion. But abortion was illegal in Michigan. So Keenan tried an illegal abortion. She bled to death. (For more on Keenan’s death and other important episodes, see this short bibliography of the best reporting on Romney’s abortion history.)
It’s unclear what Mitt Romney knew about this tragedy at the time. (Romney, his advisers, and his press office did not respond to emails, phone calls, or written questions for this article.) Though he would later recall Keenan as a “dear, close family relative that was very close to me,” the cause of Ann Keenan’s death was hidden from her friends, and Romney’s later descriptions of the episode leave open the possibility that he learned about the abortion later. But Romney’s mother, Lenore Romney, apparently knew the truth. It affected what she preached within the family and what she espoused as an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in Michigan in 1970.
Like other moderates of her day, Lenore Romney didn’t believe in an absolute right to choose. During her campaign, she remarked, “I’m so tired of hearing the argument that a woman should have the final word on what happens to her own body. This is a life.” But Mrs. Romney did think current abortion laws were too restrictive. Her platform said: “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.”