As Mitt Romney has moved to the center in an effort to overtake President Barack Obama in the campaign's homestretch, he has by necessity muted—or even muddied—his previous opposition to abortion rights, a shift that has left some abortion foes aghast.
But veteran pro-life leaders say they are confident that Romney remains committed to their agenda and, in the final weeks before the Nov. 6 vote, they are busy trying to keep rank-and-file activists from pouncing on the Republican candidate's ambiguous statements. Their fear? That going after Romney could prompt defections and cost the GOP a surprisingly strong shot at winning the White House.
"If it's hurting him to bring up the abortion issue, then I'm okay if he doesn't," said Bradley Mattis, head of the Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati.
"I think our movement has to be savvy enough to understand how political campaigns are run," he said. "And if they don't, now would be a good time to have that revelation."
Several other pro-life leaders echoed Mattis, saying that abortion opponents around the country have been coordinating their strategy to reflect political realism. Romney, they say, is the best they will get, and he's not really so bad, especially given the alternative.
"We don't necessarily need in public office someone who is going to be a crusader on this issue. We just need someone who's going to make it easier for us to do our job," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life.
"We understand why a candidate wouldn't make this their leading issue," Pavone said, adding that he was comfortable with Romney's positions. "I've found ...