In a 1994 Senate debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney revealed a startling chapter from his past: A close relative had died many years earlier in a botched illegal abortion, shaping Romney’s stance in favor of safe and legal access to abortion for all women. But in the many years since that revelation, even as Romney flipped his position and became an ardent opponent of legal abortion, the details of his young relative’s story, including even her name, have never been reported.
The relative he was referring to back in ’94, Salon has learned, was a Detroit woman named Ann Keenan. She was the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law and died at the age of 21 in 1963, a full decade before Roe v. Wade. While much of what happened remains murky, an investigation by Salon has uncovered never-reported details about her life and death, including: how she died (an infection); that her grief-stricken parents asked for memorial donations to be made to Planned Parenthood; and that the family apparently wanted to keep the death quiet because Romney’s politically ambitious father, George, was then governor of Michigan.
With access to abortion increasingly restricted in many states and the possibility that a Republican victory in 2012 — potentially by Romney — will tilt the balance of the Supreme Court against Roe v. Wade, Romney’s account of how a back-alley abortion touched his own family is more relevant than ever. The episode is a window into an era when obtaining an abortion meant the real risk of serious injury or death. It also represents a key part of Romney’s political journey on the issue of abortion, which has more than any other tarred him as a flip-flopper.”