Romney officials approved clinic loan
Worcester facility to provide abortionshttp://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2007/12/29/romney_officials_approved_clinic_loan/An artist's rendering of a room in the Planned Parenthood clinic to be constructed in Worcester. A $5m tax-exempt bond was approved for the facility by a Romney administration agency.
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff / December 29, 2007
Former governor Mitt Romney's economic development agency granted initial approval to a tax-exempt bond last year for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Worcester that will provide abortions, just two months before he left office and began highlighting his antiabortion position as a presidential candidate.
Asked about the $5 million financial deal yesterday, the Romney campaign said the former governor was not aware it was under consideration when Planned Parenthood won preliminary approval in November 2006.
Romney repeatedly used the power of his office while governor to advance socially conservative positions, including restricting stem cell research, pushing abstinence-only sex education in schools, and vetoing a bill to increase access to emergency contraception in hospitals.
In the case of the abortion clinic funding deal, the Republican candidate's spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney would have attempted to block it - if he had known about it.
"Mitt Romney is prolife," Fehrnstrom said. "He did not know about this loan. It was made by an agency that does not report to the governor. If it did, he would have told them not to do it."
In additon to providing abortion services, the 10,000-square-foot Planned Parenthood clinic planned for Worcester will offer Plan B emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill," which also is opposed by antiabortion advocates.
Jeffrey M. Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said he was surprised that Romney and his aides did not catch such a politically sensitive financial deal making its way through his economic development agency. Now, Berry said, the campaign will be put in the position of defending Romney at a time when he is heading into the most critical days of his candidacy.
"It is unusual that his people at the agency did not find a reason not to fund Planned Parenthood," Berry said. "His administration was clearly focused on his run for the presidency and making sure there was no embarrassment like this. It was an administration that was pretty efficient getting everyone operating on the same page and avoiding scandal."
While Romney's campaign said the agency that authorized the deal, MassDevelopment, is an autonomous authority, it was controlled by Romney appointees. Several of its 11-member board were top officials in the Romney administration, including Ranch Kimball, the chairman who was also Romney's secretary of economic development. Other members included another representative from Kimball's office and an official from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
In a statement to the Globe, Kimball said that it was his policy not to brief the governor's office on initial approval of loans.
"I did not brief the Governor's office on these initial reviews," he said.
The Nov. 8, 2006 vote by MassDevelopment to grant initial approval of the $5 million tax-exempt bond laid the groundwork for Planned Parenthood to begin planning the center and prepare for the loan closing. Continued...