In 2005, as Massachusetts governor, Romney vetoed an attempt by the state legislature to require hospitals to provide morning-after pills to rape victims and make them available to women and teenaged girls without a prescription. Romney said at the time he opposed the contraceptive's distribution because the pill would not only prevent conception but "would also terminate life after conception." His veto was overruled.
The Obama administration recently drew criticism from pro-abortion rights advocates by allowing the Teva contraceptive to be sold over the counter, but not to girls younger than age 17, who would still require a prescription.
As late as 2009, the Romney trusts bought 600 new shares in Fresenius Medical Care, a German firm that also did stem cell work. The trust sold the Fresenius holdings, worth more than $30,000, in 2010.
The head of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political committee that supports anti-abortion candidates, said she was concerned about Romney's investments in firms whose work is opposed by social conservatives.
"Embryonic stem cell research is the issue that was the catalyst for the governor's pro-life conversion," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the committee's president. "He should explain what appears to be a lack of follow-through in coming to terms with an issue about which he expresses great passion."
Romney's tax returns, which he released under pressure on Jan. 24, also described numerous recent stock trades in companies tied to the Chinese government or to its censorship and crackdown on free speech. As recently as October 2009, Romney's trusts were buying stock in companies like China Northshore Oil and China Merchants Holdings. More than 130 shares of the oil company were sold in late January 2010 for $19,000, along with 630 shares of China Merchants worth $21,000. The Chinese government has long incurred criticism for its tight control of the country's media and internet and for its suppression of dissent.
Shares of other Chinese assets that Romney's trust bought and sold in 2010 included the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Life Insurance and New Oriental Education, a company sued in 2003 by a U.S. firm for copyright infringement.
The director of an international organization advocating human rights in China said Romney's personal investments were as important as his political statements in trying to gauge the depth of his support for change inside China.
A presidential candidate "is accountable to the public for his full record, including financial investments and the potential human rights impact of the companies he has invested in," said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.
Some of the largest stock trades made by the Romney trust involved companies that have operated in Iran. Romney has urged toughened sanctions and military steps against Iran and has called for strategic divestment of firms that do business there. In 2007, his trustee said he had sold off Romney investments in French and Italian energy companies with business ties to Iran.
But between mid-2009 and mid-2010, the Romney trusts made large investments in securities from BNP Paribas, a French bank with long-standing operations in Iran. The bank halted new business in Iran in 2007 but is still trying to terminate outstanding loans there. In all, Romney's family trusts bought more than 2.6 million shares, which were all sold in late 2010 for about $2.5 million.
Romney's trust for his grown children also bought and sold shares in China North Oil, recently named by the Congressional Research Service as a likely violator of the Iran Sanctions Act, and in Intesa Sanpaolo, an Italian bank that has been under investigation by U.S. authorities for handling of Iranian funds. There were also trades in stock of Gazprom, Schlumberger, Komatsu and Unilever — all firms that have had business in or with Iran.
Many of those companies are included among an extensive list compiled by United Against Nuclear Iran, a bipartisan group urging pressure on firms with business in Iran. A spokesman for the group, Nathan Carleton, declined to comment on Romney's holdings. But Carleton noted that the group's list — it named several of the firms the Romney trusts bought stock in — "is available for anyone to investigate."