Elections 2012: Mitt Romney Backtracks on Comment Opposing Blunt Amendment

NEW YORK | Thursday, March 1st, 2012 2:06am EDT

In an interview with Ohio News Network on Wednesday, Mitt Romney said he opposed a controversial amendment that would allow employers to opt out of covering any kind of health benefit for moral reasons. But minutes after his answer was broadcast, the Romney campaign was insisting he actually backed the bill.

In an interview with Ohio News Network on Wednesday, Mitt Romney said he opposed a controversial amendment that would allow employers to opt out of covering any kind of health benefit for moral reasons. But minutes after his answer was broadcast, the Romney campaign was insisting he actually backed the bill. Photo: Mitt Romney/Flickr

According to The Huff Post, the former Massachusetts governor was asked the following question by ONN reporter Jim Heath during a swing through the Buckeye state:

“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. 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 by declaring, “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.”

“Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith,” said Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for Romney.

The confusion over Romney’s position on the matter underscores just how tricky an issue the contraception debates are for the Republican party. While Romney would undoubtedly like to avoid the matter entirely, he must also weigh the benefits and downsides that come with it in the context of a presidential campaign.

Last week during the GOP primary debate in Arizona Romney attacked President Barack Obama’s contraception policy, which requires most employers to cover contraception with no co-pay for their employees.

“I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course, requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill,” he said.

“Unbelievable. And he tried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them,” Romney added.

The Obama re-election campaign was quick to pounce on Romney’s abrupt reversal, with Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter blasting out the following statement.

“In one hour, Mitt Romney showed why women don’t trust him for one minute. It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop. Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women,” says the statement.

“The Blunt Amendment would allow any employer to deny their female employees coverage because of that employer’s own beliefs. With his support of this amendment, Mitt Romney is taking important health care decisions about contraception, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings among other issues out of women’s hands and into the hands of their bosses.”

Mitt Romney also appealed for the support of working-class Americans in industrial Ohio on Wednesday, a day after narrowly averting a humiliating defeat by rival Rick Santorum in Romney’s home state of Michigan, tells Reuters.

“The reason I won yesterday in Michigan and Arizona is because I’m talking about the issue people care most about and I understand that issue,” Romney said at a rally in Bexley, outside the state capital of Columbus.

“Rick Santorum’s a nice guy, but he’s an economic lightweight,” said Romney, who made a fortune as a private equity executive.

Gallup poll data showed registered U.S. voters rate the economy the most important issue in the 2012 presidential race, followed by jobs, the budget deficit and Obama’s healthcare law. Social issues were least important.

The fervently Roman Catholic Santorum has appealed to the religious right with his stands against gay rights and contraception.

Adding a populist economic message tied to his working-class roots as the grandson of a coal miner, he has led in nationwide polls since winning contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado on February 7.

The Harvard-educated Romney, who has a personal fortune estimated at some $250 million, has struggled to connect with blue-collar voters, making a series of gaffes such as offering at $10,000 bet that served as reminders of his vast fortune.

His centrist record as governor of Massachusetts also worries some conservatives, while some evangelical Christians view his Mormon religion as a cult.

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