Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push
February 29th, 2012
06:34 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push

Columbus, Ohio (CNN) - Mitt Romney's campaign scrambled to clean up another unforced error by their candidate Wednesday after he came out against a controversial amendment pushed by Senate Republicans that would allow employers to opt out of health care coverage they disagree with on moral grounds.

Romney's statement, which came in an afternoon interview with Ohio News Network, quickly reverberated around the Internet and prompted Romney's campaign to clarify that the opposite was true, and that the former Massachusetts governor, in fact, supports the legislation.

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"The way the question was asked was confusing," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email blasted out to reporters after Romney's became the subject of a flurry of tweets. "Gov. Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith."

The amendment, drafted by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Romney supporter, is an attempt by Senate Republicans to confront head-on a simmering controversy over rules governing religious employers and coverage they are required to provide.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Thursday.

The uproar was sparked by a move by the Obama administration that would have required employers to provide contraception to their employees - regardless of the employer's religious beliefs. Representatives from the Catholic church advocated strongly against the measure.

The White House has since backed off on that requirement, and instead said insurers must cover birth control if the employer does not.

In the sit down interview with Ohio's ONN, Romney was asked whether he supported the Blunt measure.

"The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception," asked the reporter, Jim Heath. "Have you taken a position on it? He (Santorum) said he was for that, we'll talk about personhood in a second; but he's for that, have you taken a position?"

Romney responded: "I'm not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I'm not going there."

As they worked to fix the off-message comment, which was already being circulated to reporters by conservative political operatives, the Romney campaign criticized the "rushed" nature of the question and pointed out that the amendment does not "ban" contraception.

For his part, Romney, appearing on the Howie Carr radio show after the ONN interview, said he misunderstood the question.

"I didn't understand his question. Of course, I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception. So I was simply misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment," Romney said before further outlining his position in support of the amendment.

"I simply misunderstood what he was talking about. I thought it was some Ohio legislation that, where employers were prevented from providing contraceptives so I talked about contraceptives and so forth. I really misunderstood the question," Romney said. "Of course Roy Blunt who is my liaison to the Senate is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from 'Obamacare.'"

Meanwhile, Obama's re-election team wasted no time Wednesday pouncing on Romney's comments, saying in a statement that Romney showed in one hour "why women don't trust him for one minute."

"It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop," Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager, said in the statement. "Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women.”

Also piling on the criticism, Santorum's campaign released a statement accusing Romney of giving a "troubling" first reaction to the question.

"As Governor, Mitt Romney has a clear record of taking away the freedom of religion," Santorum's national communications director Hogan Gidley said in a statement. "We all know Romney's liberal record on this, so when he's asked a question about a bill that would protect our religious freedom – and Romney's gut reaction is to say he'd oppose it – we shouldn't be the least bit surprised."

Also see:

DNC: Romney out of touch

Super PACs provide air cover to GOP candidates

NFL moves opening game for Obama convention speech

Citing partisanship, Snowe stuns with departure news


Filed under: 2012 • Health care • Mitt Romney
soundoff (289 Responses)
  1. Marry

    Now, here Romney says something that makes some sense, than realizes it might not go to well with the ultra-right and – flip flops. Typical Romney – can’t stand for a minute behind what he says!

    March 1, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  2. julien vergara

    Its obama who is out of touch

    March 1, 2012 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  3. Rilla

    fake flipflop lied disgusting mittens and whoever vote for any of these republicans besides paul Dont really want america to stay the best country in the world

    March 1, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  4. boon

    Mittens appears to be frequently confused.

    March 1, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  5. Suave

    So if a employers religous belief is woman shouldnt be working can that store only hire men under this law.

    March 1, 2012 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  6. Dave

    I don't get what the problem is. Just because contraceptives have to be covered doesn't mean they have to be used. I don't see how anybody's rights are being threatened here. Circumcision can be against peoples' religions, too. Should insurers explicitly *not* cover that procedure?

    March 1, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  7. Trey

    This "stumble" sound like a non-issue to me. The wording was confusing. The man's had little to no sleep. Give him a break.

    March 1, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  8. scottf

    Romney probably deep down realizes this legislation is insane. He proves that a person with some reason, a partial brain, and a conscience can't be a right wing Taliban commander for women's rights.

    March 1, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  9. garrett

    good news.jesus wasn't a repubican.

    March 1, 2012 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  10. Michael

    In other words, he was against it, before he was for it!

    March 1, 2012 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  11. Marc

    The only thing anyone should support of Roy Blunt's is his decision to resign immediately. #PleaseSayThisHappensSoon

    March 1, 2012 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  12. chrisnot

    With all the tradgedies going on in this tiny little speck we call our world.., Syria's massacres, global financial disruptions, starvation, curable but uncured fatal diseases, the 1%.., the 99%, rogue nations with nukes, or, trying to get nukes, a supremely dysfunctional, polarized adolescent congress, unemployment, and we're talking about contraception and a religion's role in women's health care choices?

    March 1, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  13. Jim

    The GOP presidential candidates are doing more to help reelect Obama than any previous GOP field. I'm not sure that this country has ever seen such a group of "ultras", i.e. far right, misogynistic, anti-science, religous fanatics. I was a Republican voter for almost 50 years, but not in this election.

    March 1, 2012 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  14. E. O'Donnell

    This debate gets stranger and stranger. Why is anyone stuck with a health care plan that their employer chooses? This model is bad for business and worse for consumers, why are we trying so hard to preserve it? It must be good for insurance companies. It's obviously been good for the medical profession, we have the highest cost health care in the world.
    We should be demanding affordable medical coverage for individuals who can make their own choices, not arguing over which specific procedures employers do or do not pay for.

    March 1, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  15. Iamnotfooled

    And that is why Romney will never be President. He speaks what he feels is right and then his campaign makes him flip-flop and go far right. The Blunt- Rubio law will never pass. It has the ability to take away all healthcare if the boss claims it bothers his conscious. If he feels prayer can heal you then he is not obligated to give you healthcare of any form. That's why Rubio will never be Vice-President either.

    March 1, 2012 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  16. BT

    Let's be clear about what this means – the GOP is favoring legislation that prevents women from getting contraception. Period. It's not about freedom – it's about the GOP wanting to have the government enable right ring extremists to prevent woment from access to contraception. Viagra – no problem. Contraception for women – no one has a right to that. The government will pass laws to specifically say you don't have that right. Just plain awful. Especially when you see Mitt surrounded by the jowly old white men who are gleefully staying no woman has a right to contraception. Men can get all the viagra they need of course – because that's a "health" issue. How hypocritical.

    March 1, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  17. Mike

    Why am I not surprise. This guy has no back bone. He is probably the biggest flip floper to ever run for a president.

    March 1, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  18. Sam Clemens

    Can't wait to see this chowder head in a debate with our President. He will be stuck in awkward pauses trying to remember what pander he is supposed to repeat that day since he has no convictions other than his committment to his temple and his committment to hand over the rest of our nation's wealth to the top 1%.

    Would have been more comical to wathc frothy try to talk substand in the real world with President Obama, but watching mittens twist in the wind will be good fodder for SNL too.

    March 1, 2012 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  19. storoz

    Interesting read on the blunt ammendment S. 1813. Sounds like control of what medical treatments are covered by our insurance goes to the moral opinion of our employers. I am not sure, but this goes beyond religous institutions offering health coverage and extends to an individual employers moral convictions. Any experts out there who can shed some real light on this??

    March 1, 2012 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  20. Josef Bleaux

    All Republicans should practice birth control. It would raise the average IQ of the human race considerably if they did.

    March 1, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  21. setnommarih

    If you don't understand a question, you ask for clarification, until that occurs, then don't answer. But, the 57 state president has absolutely no room to talk either.

    March 1, 2012 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  22. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    This flip flopper flipped when he should have flopped. What a worthless tool, but he is the best the pubes have.

    March 1, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  23. Vader

    Wow! A new record for a flip-flop!

    March 1, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  24. Big Jilm

    Who's freedom of religion needs protecting again? According to the GOP, the Pope and an institution have religious rights to force their viewpoint on others and it apparently trumps the rights of individuals. Note also that the Pope isn't even an American citizen. IMO these employees have been having their religious freedoms hampered by these institutions. You want federal money, then you can't force your view onto others, even of the same religion. I guess women employees' religious rights don't matter as much as some stuffy Polish Hitler Youth who wouldn't know or understand how relationships actually work. Women will stick it to you sexist pigs in November.

    March 1, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  25. Ain't life strange?

    No, its not a bill to protect religious freedom, its a bill to deny the freedom for women to decide if they want to control their health care., particularly with contraceptives.

    March 1, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
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