That’s what the Washington Post recently called Governor Romney’s change of heart on abortion. It also illuminated the issue in a way few outlets have. Here is a brief history of President Reagan, which jibes with what I’ve read in Lou Cannon’s masterful Governor Reagan:
Reagan may have had an easier time of it, said Heritage Foundation scholar Lee Edwards, who penned one of the first Reagan biographies in the late 1960s. That may be because Reagan never declared himself a supporter of abortion rights in the manner that Romney did during the early days of his tenure as Massachusetts governor. The perception that Reagan changed positions stems from a controversial decision Reagan made while governor of California in 1967 to sign legislation easing the state’s restrictions on abortion.
Reagan was hardly a champion of the bill, as a June 16, 1967 UPI wire service account makes clear, recounting that the governor “reluctantly” signed the bill to legalize abortion when a child’s birth would endanger the physical or mental health of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. The wire service described an agonized governor: “Mr. Reagan had changed his mind twice earlier this week on the measure, first backing down from a pledge to sign it, and then deciding that he would approve it.” He refused to sign the measure until lawmakers removed a provision that would permit an abortion when a child is likely to be born deformed, saying that notion was “only a step away from what Hitler tried to do.”
Not long after the measure became law, Edwards said, Reagan made clear he “deeply regretted signing the bill” and “took a much more openly pro-Life position starting in 1976,” the year he mounted an insurgent bid from the right to try and topple Gerald Ford.
The whole piece is worth a read.