Mitt Romney said on Tuesday that he has no plans for abortion legislation if elected president, a statement that is more moderate than ones he's made on the issue in the past.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney told the Des Moines Register editorial board.
In an interview with an Ohio TV station during the heat of the Republican primary in February, Romney said he was “in favor of a pro-life policy.” He noted that “the legislation that relates to abortion is something which is going to have to be approved by the Supreme Court,” a body to which he would appoint nominees to fill any vacancies if he is elected.
Asked to clarify the Republican nominee’s position, Romney spokesman Andrea Saul sent an email saying that Romney "is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president." She also said that Romney "would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life."
Romney himself weighed in Wednesday when asked about the issue in Delaware, Ohio. "I think I've said time and again that I'm a pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president," he told reporters. "The actions I'll take immediately is to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget. And also I 've indicated that I will reverse the Mexico City position of the president. I will reinstate the Mexico City policy which keeps us from using foreign aid for abortions overseas."
Romney had told the Register that he would reinstate the so-called "Mexico City policy" that bans U.S. foreign aid from being used for abortions, pointing out that President Obama dropped the policy on his 10th day in office.
The Obama campaign was quick to pounce on its rival's statements, with spokeswoman Lis Smith saying that women can’t trust Romney on the topic.
“It’s troubling that Mitt Romney is so willing to play politics with such important issues,” Smith said. “But we know the truth about where he stands on a woman’s right to choose – he’s said he’d be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortions, and called Roe v. Wade ‘one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history’ while pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn it.”
It is not the first time Romney has run into trouble for shifting his language on abortion since becoming the Republican nominee. In an August interview with Scott Pelley of CBS News, Romney said he was in favor of abortion being legal “in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.”
At the time, a spokesperson had to clarify that Romney did not support the exception to protect the health of the pregnant woman, according to NPR News. Many abortion opponents, including Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan, do not support this exception because they believe it creates a loophole, such as for a mental health exception.
Romney supported abortion rights in 1994, when he unsuccessfully ran against Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, and again in 2002 when he was elected the Bay State's governor. He has explained that his thinking on the issue has evolved over time, something the fact-checking website PolitiFact rated a "full flop."
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan came to Romney’s defense Wednesday. "No positions have changed. Our position is very consistent,” he told reporters in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Ryan said his position and Romney’s were “unified,” but he balked when asked to reiterate his views. “I am sure you will find out in these debates,” he said.
Throughout his House career, Ryan has opposed legal abortion except in cases where a woman's life was in danger. But now that he is on the ticket, his views have been superseded by those of Romney, who supports exceptions for rape and incest.
That was made clear after Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made controversial remarks about pregnancies caused by rape. The Romney campaign put out a statement saying a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed.