In Iowa, where an adherence to “right to life” principles has helped candidates from Mike Huckabee to Rick Santorum gain a following in the Republican Party’s presidential caucuses, Mitt Romney said that his agenda includes no abortion legislation — softening a position for a candidate who vowed to limit abortion funding during the primaries.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney said in a meeting with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board at a family farm in Van Meter, Iowa, before a campaign appearance there yesterday.
President Barack Obama’s campaign pounced on the statement, charging its opponent with lying about his positions and pointing to a remark that Romney made during a 2007 debate when he said he would be `delighted’ to sign a bill banning all abortions.
“Romney may try to change his image four weeks before Election Day, but he can’t change the fact that women can’t trust him,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an issued statement.
(Romney is risking base support with a pitch to women and other independents — see the report at Bloomberg.com.)
During the Republican primaries, Romney said he would “get rid of” funding for Planned Parenthood and would prefer to appoint Supreme Court justices who would oppose Roe v. Wade, the landmark court decision that legalized abortion across the nation. The Obama campaign has run ads citing this stance and portraying Romney as a threat to women.
By executive order, not by legislation, he said yesterday he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions.
His new statement in an interview with the Des Moines editors yesterday conforms with a broader effort by Romney’s campaign to moderate his tone to reach out to swing voter in November. He’s been highlighting a recast message as he seeks votes from middle-income earners, Hispanics, women and fence-sitters of all backgrounds.
Asked why he’s seeing a bounce in popularity with women in the national polls, Romney joked in his meeting with the Register editorial board: “Probably the appearance of my wife on more TV shows. She is my not so secret weapon and is very effective in speaking to people across the country.”
He added: “But in all seriousness, I think as we get closer to the election, there is more attention being paid to my actual positions as opposed to the positions that are being described by my opponent. Over the last several months, he has vastly outspent us on the air and has grossly distorted my views on almost every issue.”
Yet, Romney’s position also puts him at odds with the socially conservative base of his party, who’ve made limiting abortion rights a key part of their platform. His running-mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, sponsored a fetal personhood bill during the last Congress that would effectively criminalize abortion without exceptions for rape victims. He also cosposored an act that tried to narrow the definition of rape to curtail abortions. Only in cases of “forcible rape,” according to the measure, would a woman be eligible to have her abortion covered under insurance.
“I’m as pro-life as a person gets,” Ryan told the Weekly Standard magazine in 2010.