Romney stumbles over question about GOP contraception push
February 29th, 2012
06:34 PM ET
9 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. rika33

    He'll say anything that he hopes will get him elected –

    February 29, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Kevin B

    In the annals of political gaffes, THIS will be forgotten by tomorrow.

    I don't agree with Romney's position, but his explanation that he misunderstood the question is perfectly logical.

    February 29, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney doing the old Flip Flopping routine again! This does not bode well for him in the Presidential debates.

    February 29, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  4. Kari

    Oh boy. What a mess of a candidate he is.

    February 29, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. geggyg

    So what else will this law allow not to be covered on religous or moral grounds
    – maternity and childcare for single parents
    – STI's for single and married , someone in the relationship had sx outside marriage
    -treatment for hiv/aids
    -blood transfusions /seventh day adventist
    -many invasive med procedures/ christian scientists
    This is just a few possibilites, there ar many more things that may not be covered if employers are allowed moral objections in insurance policies

    February 29, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  6. Dan

    "Health Care coverage that they disagree with on moral grounds?" Only Republicans and their supporters would disagree with health care coverage. I didn't agree with the War in Iraq but I paid taxes that supported it and I deployed to the middle east to participate in the war that the Republicans wanted. I don't agree with tax breaks for companies that earn record profits and end up paying $0 in taxes. It is amazing how backwards the Republican party is and it will cost them another election...

    February 29, 2012 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  7. informed voter

    Romney has no moral center or convictions, that is why he has such a problem being understood. He simply will say anything that he thinks will get him elected and doesn't appear to have any core beliefs that he won't morph to fit whatever audience he is in front of. Once in office he will lower taxes for his fellow 1%ers, gut our country's social safety net, and fire as many federal workers as is popular, until our economy crashes once again.

    February 29, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. korkea aika

    Romney simply does not stand for anything. So of course, he can't depend on his own 'gut' for any answers to 'hard' questions like 'what is your position'.

    February 29, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  9. John

    What is insanely wrong with this is that morality is subjective. Who is anyone to say that another person's morality is acceptable? How many lawyers will be involved in determining that, or will we have panels of religious clergy-types settling our legal cases?

    Just as a thought, better be prepared to accept polygamy. It was perfectly moral until secular law outlawed it.

    February 29, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  10. brian in dc

    Cut the guy some slack, he's been non-stop campaigning.

    February 29, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  11. brian in denver

    Just another GOP "oops" moment. How are any of these clowns qualified to deal w/ the diplomacy, humanity & intelligence required of the office of the Presidency?

    February 29, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. Reno

    It's one thing to be a liar running for President, but can somebody teach him his lines properly? They aren't going to nominate him if these Freudian slips keep exposing a brain.

    February 29, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. Charlotte

    He never knows what his position is until his handlers can figure out who the audience is. In this case he, like everyone in politics, is not entitled to an opinion. It's basic health care. It's preventative health care. No mythological cult should be allowed to dictate these issues to women who are not initiates into their cult, and if they are in the public domain as employers then they must adhere to public policy without regard to their superstitions.

    February 29, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  14. CBR

    It seemed to be a pretty straight-forward question. The GOP is trying too hard to use this whole issue to their advantage. The bottom line is that contraception is an issue that is decided by a woman after consulting her physician. She may, in fact, talk this over with her partner as well. It would be so nice to hear one man tell other men to mind their own business.

    Men need to stop receiving viagra and other drugs from their insurance companies. They also need to stop financing the means of male contraception. Then we might be able to talk. Until then, leave the women alone. Each of us is very capable of deciding the reproductive issue and what we want to do or choose not to do. Our insurance companies should let this be a woman/s choice. If religious institutions do not agree then they can withhold insurance so long as they do not employ people of varying religions and backgrounds. Those who work for Catholic hospitals should not have their access to health care denied.

    February 29, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  15. Omar Justice

    I can't believe he lied about not understanding the question. He fully understood the question, because he answered it fully. People really shouldn't lie like that.

    February 29, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. Push

    Can you say Flip Flop!

    February 29, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  17. cowflop

    "I was against it before I was for it."

    February 29, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. rhumba

    Too bad that these candidates don't understand simple questions. How can any of them even think about being the leader of the free world. Maybe they need a little more education– no wait, that would be elitist.

    February 29, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. Chuk

    Fip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop, ..., you get the message.

    February 29, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  20. Larry

    Flip Flop, Romney???

    February 29, 2012 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  21. bigmowma

    He got confused? The question was too hard? Is this really presidential material here?

    February 29, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  22. d

    Well if he was smart he would not be for the Blunt bill...but he is there you have it!

    February 29, 2012 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  23. Name

    MOM! Flipper Romney is flopping again, please let him "STOP". Romney Romney Romney. Your handlers need to peels you away from the public and hide you, just like they did at the beginning of your campaign.

    February 29, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    The GOP wants to cut funding to social services like welfare, aid to children and pregnant mothers, Medicaid and cash assistance. , and under President Bush, cut funding to afterschool programs that reduced teen pregnancy and juvenile crime and raised graduation rates. And yet, they say this is about conscience and religious freedom? These so-called pro-life people only care about the first three months of gestation. After that, its all about capitalism.

    February 29, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  25. Namejkane fl

    Of course the republicans would suport something that would save the insurance industry money at the exspense of womans health care and the middle class, what a shock. Obama landslide coming.

    February 29, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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