In a 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney stated that although he was personally opposed to abortion, he was "committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter." He also revealed that a close relative of his had died at the age of 21 after a botched illegal abortion.
As recently as 2006, Romney guaranteed by law that Planned Parenthood would appoint a member of the advisory board for Massachusetts' health care system.
Then in 2007, just in time for the Republican primaries, Romney began proclaiming his firm opposition to abortion. This has probably contributed to some people's view of him as a "flip-flopper," a "chameleon," or a "hypocrite." Certainly, however, he is not the first presidential candidate to be tagged with this label.
There are two questions that must be asked here. First, is Romney being completely honest now when he says he is firmly pro-life? I think the answer is no--the timing and suddenness of his change just seems too obvious. (For the record, I support abortion rights in most cases; I am commenting solely on his quick change of position).
Secondly, how much can we blame Romney for his flip-flop? His 1994 stance on abortion is not an extreme position--a clear majority of Americans think that abortion should be legal under at least some circumstances. Furthermore, I think that a fiscally conservative candidate with moderate pro-choice views would have a good chance against Obama in a general election. However, Romney must have realized in 2007 that because of his abortion views, he had almost zero chance of winning the Republican nomination. In order to have a chance at becoming President, he had to flip-flop.
I am in no way trying to argue for or against Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate. All I am saying is that, sadly, pro-choice Republicans or fiscally conservative Democrats or (in the past few elections) anti-war Republicans have almost no chance of becoming President. The current partisan primary system basically guarantees that every nominee will more or less follow the Republican or Democratic party line. If they deviate even a tiny bit, they usually have to pretend like they are more conservative/progressive than they really are in order to win the nomination. This is why so many candidates seem like flip-floppers.