Eliza Dushku, Mitt Romney and the Dushku Gerrymander
I found this all kind of fascinating. Apparently actress Eliza Dushku’s family was a member of Mitt Romney’s Boston LDS Ward. Eliza’s mother, Judy, and Ann Romney had such an acrimonious falling out during Mitt’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign that LDS wards were redrawn to separate them:
Daily Intel caught up with actress Eliza Dushku to talk Mormonism and Mitt Romney. Romney served as Dushku’s bishop when she was growing up, although she doesn’t consider herself to be “very Mormon” anymore — she started distancing herself from the church as a teenager. “My problems with the church have to do with its stance on homosexuality, and other things,” she told us.
Among those “other things”: Women’s rights, a subject which frequently pitted Dushku’s mother, Judy Dushku, against Romney. Consequently, Dushku’s history with Romney is a bit complicated. “I mean, he went from being my first crush at six years old — I named my Ken dolls ‘Mitt’ — and then when I was old enough to hear what was coming out of his mouth, it was over,” Dushku recalls. “I’m sure he’s a nice guy. I knew him to be a nice person, to those around him. He had five sons that I knew, that my brothers would play with growing up, and they were kind to others. But what they stand for I don’t find to be tolerant or just.”
And the challenges to Ann Romney didn’t all come from Democrats and newspapers. But some of the most cutting criticism came from fellow churchgoers in Boston’s small Latter-day Saint community.
Most notably, a liberal group called Mormons Against Romney formed to oppose their lay leader-turned-Senate-candidate, aggressively organizing against his campaign and leaking unflattering stories to local press, Mormon author Ron B. Scott wrote in Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics.
According to Scott, Judith Dushku, a prominent feminist and leader of the anti-Romney group, publicly confronted Mrs. Romney — who attended the same Mormon ward as her — and shouted, “I know you, Ann Romney. What are you hiding? Speak to me!”
Fielding such harsh attacks from former friends was an experience that Mrs. Romney wouldn’t soon forget, according to Scott:
The following Sunday [after the campaign ended], Judy Dushku remembered approaching Ann Romney at church, hoping to make peace and move on. ‘I cannot forgive what you did to us,’ Mrs. Romney snapped protectively, rejecting Judy’s hand of fellowship. ‘Don’t you ever, ever talk to me again.’
The rift was so deep, Scott wrote, that when the Mormon wards were redrawn, local authorities made sure to separate the families, a move known as the “Dushku gerrymander.”
Scott’s book, which is not a page-turner and has gotten only a handful of reviews, also offers glimpses of the internal politics of the Boston-area church over which Romney presided. He clashed in particular with Judy Dushku, a Mormon feminist figure and the mother of actress Eliza Dushku. After a bitter exchange during his 2002 race for governor – in which she was among those suggesting he was privately more conservative than he made public – local leaders redrew the map of ‘wards’ – the equivalent of parishes – to ensure the Romneys and Dushkus would no longer meet, drawing Dushku’s Watertown home into a suburban ward.
‘To some, this dextrous and nearly transparent maneuverer became known as the Dushku gerrymander, an unrequested courtesy extended to their former stake president Mitt Romney and his wife, who would never again have to be face to face with Judy Dushku while they worshipped,’ he said.
Apparently the ill-will between the Romneys and Judith Dushku dates back to at least Romney’s failed 1994 US Senate bid. From a 2007 interview with Judith Dushku:
Suzan Mazur: Now you also considered Mitt Romney a friend.
Judy Dushku: Yes.
Suzan Mazur: But you broke off your friendship with him when you publicly criticized his approach to the abortion issue while he was bishop, specifically his sadistic “counseling” of a 40ish-year-old woman in her sixth pregnancy to give birth, even though her doctor advised her that she’d developed blood clots and that her life was in danger.
Judy Dushku: I sort of naively didn’t think I was breaking off the friendship. I was upset about the position he took. And I wanted it to be clear both privately and publicly how upset I was about that. But I did go up to Mitt after his 1994 Senatorial race to congratulate him for making a respectable showing against Ted Kennedy, whom I had actively supported.
Suzan Mazur: And what did he say?
Judy Dushku: He said I’m so angry at you. I don’t ever want to talk about this again. And I don’t want to talk to you.
And I said, I’m sorry about that Mitt because I thought we could have our political differences and remain at least cordial.
He said – No. That’s not possible.
Suzan Mazur: Bits of this story have appeared elsewhere, but would you recount the story of Bishop Mitt Romney’s counseling of this pregnant woman?
Judy Dushku: It was in the late 1970s. She was a woman about 40 years old, 3 ½ to 4 months into her sixth pregnancy. We’ll call her woman “X”. She was an active member of the ward where Romney was bishop in Massachusetts, at that time in a neighboring community where I was not a member. The stake president was a doctor named Gordon and was an old friend of X.
X and her husband went to the hospital because she had an aching in her leg. Her doctor was alarmed after examining her, telling her she had developed blood clots and could not carry the pregnancy to full term. He said they’d have to give her blood thinners in order to get rid of the clots and that they would endanger the baby.
X had lost her first baby; the child was born with many physical problems and died at two or three weeks old. X was already the mother of four teenage children. This would have been her sixth.
Suzan Mazur: And X and her husband decided they would abort the child because her life was in danger.
Judy Dushku: Yes.
Suzan Mazur: And she advised her bishop – Mitt Romney – that she was going to terminate the pregnancy for medical reasons. And what did he say?
Judy Dushku: First of all the stake president – Gordon – came by to see X with a friend and said well it looks like you have to do this – terminate the pregnancy. He was perfectly comfortable with X’s decision, since both she and the child were in peril. And Gordon was technically higher in the LDS church hierarchy than Mitt was as bishop.
So then Mitt came in to the hospital. X thought Mitt had come to be comforting because that’s what bishops do. They have a pastoral role. But she said that instead he was critical.
He said – What do you think you’re doing?
She said – Well, we have to abort the baby because I have these blood clots.
And he said something to the effect of – Well, why do you get off easy when other women have their babies?
And she said – What are you talking about? This is a life threatening situation.
And he said – Well what about the life of the baby?
And she said – I have four other children and I think it would be really irresponsible to continue the pregnancy.
X said she found herself arguing with Romney about her medical crisis, said he was very unsympathetic, very critical, and said that under the circumstances in no way did he condone her aborting the child. And he left.
She was extremely distraught. Talked it over with her husband. They decided to go ahead with the abortion. After that she left the church.
Suzan Mazur: She’s okay now?
Judy Dushku: Yes.
Suzan Mazur: And you then confronted Romney over the matter.
Judy Dushku: In the early 90s, our feminist newspaper Exponent II, did a theme issue about Mormonism and abortion. X said she’d like to write a piece describing her experience. We agreed to publish her story anonymously because we knew her and knew about the ordeal.
Then in 1994, when Romney was running for the Senate, he came out in favor of choice for women — which was surprising to me. I was pleased and called, asking to see him. I told him I suspected that we had our differences, but that maybe I could work with him if he’d come to a really good position on women and childbirth.
And he said – Yes, come to my office.
I went to his office and I congratulated him on taking a pro-choice position. And his response was – Well they told me in Salt Lake City I could take this position, and in fact I probably had to in order to win in a liberal state like Massachusetts.
Suzan Mazur: Who’s “THEY”?
Judy Dushku: I asked him the same question. And he said “the Brethren” in Salt Lake City.
And I said, Mitt, it doesn’t make me happy to hear that. What you’re suggesting is that you’re not genuinely pro-choice. It’s a position of convenience.
He said – Oh no, I actually had an aunt who died of a botched abortion. So I have some positive feelings about choice, but basically I know that I have to take that position.
So I said – How do you feel about choice for poor women and state funding of abortion for poor women?
He said, I’m against that. The state has no right or responsibility to fund abortions for poor women.
And I said – Well Mitt, I thought there was possibly some kind of room for mutual agreement on this issue but it appears there’s really not. I think we’re quite far apart on the issue of choice. It’s nice meeting with you here and talking with you. Good luck with your campaign, however, I can’t support you.