Peoria, Illinois (CNN) – Mitt Romney tried to make his final day before Tuesday’s Illinois primary all about the economy, but in the end he couldn’t escape the distracting questions about birth control that have seeped into the Republican presidential discussion for weeks on end.
Romney faced two questions about contraception as he wrapped up his last event Monday, a sun-splashed outdoor town hall on the campus of Bradley University in Peoria.
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After Romney riffed for about 20 minutes on President Barack Obama’s management of the economy, he solicited questions from the large student-heavy audience.
As the first questioner made apparent, these voters were not pre-screened.
“So you’re all for like, yay, freedom, and all this stuff,” said the first woman to approach a microphone. “And yay, like pursuit of happiness. You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”
Her remark drew a mix of applause and boos from the crowd, and a rebuke from the Republican frontrunner.
“You know, let me tell you, no no, look, look let me tell you something,” he said, waiting for the crowd noise died down. “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for? Vote for the other guy, that’s what he’s all about, okay? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about.”
That exchange was followed by another question about Romney’s plan to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
A female audience member asked Romney where he might suggest “millions of women go” without Planned Parenthood offering reproductive and sexual health care.
“Well they can go wherever they’d like to go,” Romney told her. “This is a free society. But here’s what I’d say, which is the federal government should not tax these people to pay for Planned Parenthood … The idea of the federal government funding Planned Parenthood I’m going to say no, we’re going to stop that.”