Romney Pharmaceutical Chief’s Fundraiser Doesn’t Seem to Faze Pro-Lifers

Republican candidate attends $50K per plate party at home of ‘morning-after pill’ executive. Little opposition voiced.

(photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images News)

A presidential candidate attends a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser at the home of a pharmaceutical executive whose company produces an emergency contraceptive commonly known as the "morning-after pill.”

In normal circumstances, one might expect strong statements of disapproval from the pro-life community.

But in an election year, when the opposing candidate's record is unequivocally pro-abortion, politics can have an effect on how some pro-life organizations respond to the situation described above, which is no hypothetical.

On May 16, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, visited the Miami home of Dr. Philip Frost, the chairman of the board of Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israel-based company that produces many different medicines, including regular contraceptives. Teva is also one of the country's largest producers of generic drugs.

Teva also produces Plan B One Step, an emergency contraceptive designed to prevent pregnancy within 72 hours of intercourse by preventing fertilization and ovulation, but also by thinning the uterine wall to prevent implantation, thus making it an abortifacient, according to many in the pro-life community.

However, the reaction to the Romney fundraiser in pro-life sectors has been muted, with several pro-life officials seeking to keep the spotlight on President Obama's abortion record and his close ties to Planned Parenthood.

“At this point, the sentiment of most pro-life leaders and activists I am in contact with is that this election is about avoiding the unmitigated disaster of a second Obama term," said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

"This is not the first nor the last objection that will be raised against Governor Romney, and I don’t dispute the seriousness of it. But what is often called the choice of the lesser of two evils is not a choice for evil; it is a choice to reduce evil. And to reduce evil is a good," Father Pavone told the Register.

"The biggest concern is we have two choices for president, and Mitt Romney is going to be much better from our point of view," said Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

Fox told the Register that she "did not have a lot to say" about the Romney fundraiser, which she suggested is being reported in the media to benefit Obama.

"They (the media) don't care if Romney is pro-life or not. They care about getting us upset, splitting us and having us not vote," Fox said.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, told the Register that AUL has not commented on the fundraiser, and "really cannot easily weigh in on an issue of direct partisan politics."

Paul Rondeau, executive director of American Life League, told the Register that nobody knows if Romney's staff investigated all the products that Teva manufactures before the fundraiser was held. Rondeau added that it is also unknown whether the actual donors present at the fundraiser were pro-life. Rondeau also said it was his understanding that the fundraiser did not involve any money from Teva.

"We do know that Romney is an imperfect man like the rest of us and therefore an imperfect candidate. But if politics is the art of compromise, the current president has long since moved way beyond that. It is no longer about truth; it is about raw power," Rondeau said.

To some, however, the pro-life organizations' responses are disingenuous.

"For pro-life groups to give the Plan B manufacturer a pass because it supports Romney is hypocrisy," said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.

"What's needed now is for pro-life groups to step up and insist that Romney promise to end all federal health-care support for Plan B," Schneck said.

If President Obama had held a similar fundraiser, it is likely that more traditional pro-life forces would have expressed outrage, said Charles Camosy, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University.

"When they do not direct this outrage at Romney, it becomes fair to ask whether such forces are more interested in playing politics as usual rather than actually working in defense of our prenatal children," said Camosy, who added that the fundraiser plays into the narrative for many conservatives and serious pro-lifers that Romney's pro-life conversion (he ran as a pro-choice candidate for Massachusetts governor in 2002) is not genuine.

"And for many pro-lifers who are not conservatives, this fundraiser is yet more evidence that the pro-life movement makes a big mistake when it trusts Republicans to make nonviolence towards our vulnerable prenatal children a true priority," Camosy said.

The Romney campaign did not return messages seeking comment for this story. Efforts to contact Dr. Frost at Teva were also unsuccessful.

At least one high-profile pro-life figure, Penny Nance, chairwoman of Concerned Women for America, spoke out on the issue, telling The Daily Caller that she would have urged Romney to cancel the fundraiser "because it is dirty money."

While the pro-life and conservative blogospheres stayed quiet, many mainstream and liberal-leaning websites were all too eager to highlight the seeming inconsistency. Planned Parenthood Action Fund's president, Cecile Richards, also chided Romney, telling reporters that he "can't have it both ways."

The website, a liberal blog published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, noted that Romney, during a February press conference in Colorado, referred to morning-after pills like Plan B as "abortive pills." At the time, Romney was criticizing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers cover such prescriptions in their employee health-insurance plans.

Romney's record on abortion was an issue during the recent primary campaign. He promised to support Roe v. Wade when he challenged the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy for his seat in 1994. During a gubernatorial debate in 2002, Romney responded to an opponent's attacks that he could not be trusted on the abortion issue by saying: "Let me make this very clear: I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." 

By 2007, Romney said he was pro-life after his views on abortion had changed, but detractors were unconvinced. During the recent primaries, an old photograph surfaced that seemed to show Romney at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. The Boston Globe also reported that Romney's wife, Ann, donated to Planned Parenthood in 1994.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who ran against Romney during this year's primaries, challenged Romney's abortion record. In one campaign ad, the Santorum camp said the former senator from Pennsylvania was writing the law that ended partial-birth abortions while Romney "was writing a personal check to Planned Parenthood."

However, Rondeau of the American Life League noted that, in 2005, then-Gov. Romney vetoed a bill that would have required hospitals in Massachusetts to offer the morning-after pill to rape victims, as well as requiring pharmacies to sell them without a prescription. The Massachusetts Legislature later overrode Romney's veto.

While it is right to question the wisdom of Romney's fundraiser, Rondeau said there was still "no question" that Obama is the "abortion president" for his administration's efforts to prevent state legislatures from defunding Planned Parenthood and for spending millions of dollars pushing coerceive family-planning initiatives in foreign countries. Rondeau also assailed Obama for calling for more civil discourse while attending $40,000-a-plate fundraisers and railing against the rich.

"So while Obama looks to raise $1 billion, is the only pro-life option to insist that Romney forgo all donations from all organizations that pro-lifers may find troubling in some way and all people who work there or know people who work there?" Rondeau asked.

Fox, from Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said it "would be nice if everyone could deal with only perfect people," and added that Teva probably makes "thousands of other products." She said the fundraiser flap is a distraction from the real issues.

"What we're doing is playing into the hands of the media and the Obama campaign to be jumping on every little thing we can find," Fox said.

Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from El Paso, Texas.