Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told The Des Moines Register he does not plan to pursue abortion-related legislation if elected.
The media immediately seized on the comments as a promise by Romney to back away from some of his harsher rhetoric on abortion. He has said he would prefer Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to abortion, be overturned and that abortion should be allowed only in instances of incest, rape, and to protect the health of the mother.
Yet, parsing the words of a man who has changed his mind on this subject in the past (he ran as a pro-choice candidate for the U.S. Senate and governor of Massachusetts), isn’t easy.
Here’s what he said:
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney told the Register’s editorial board on Tuesday.
So no current legislation, but does that mean he would consider approving anti-abortion legislation brought forward by a Republican Congress? A clarification from a Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul seemed to suggest he would.
“Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president,” she said in one statement. In another, she went further: “Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections of life.”
When Romney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press in September he once again re-affirmed his anti-abortion position and said he would “encourage pro-life policies” if elected president and appoint Supreme Court justices that would reverse Roe v. Wade.
Romney said he would seek to ban the use of U.S. funds being used overseas for abortion in both the Meet the Press and Register interviews.
Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan has taken even stauncher positions on abortion in the past, supporting legislation that sought to limit abortions to cases of “forcible rape,” a divisive term.
Both the Obama campaign and Planned Parenthood criticized Romney’s comment to the Register as just another demonstration of his flip-flopping. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund called it a “misleading” comment.
“Let’s be clear: Mitt Romney wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, end federal funding for Planned Parenthood preventive services, end insurance coverage for birth control, and repeal health protections for women,” the organization said in its statement.