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Presidential Candidates Clash Over Planned Parenthood, Abortion Positions

Presidential Candidates Clash Over Planned Parenthood, Abortion Positions

October 11, 2012 — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday attempted to clarify his recent comments about abortion by telling reporters that he would govern as a "pro-life president," the Washington Post reports (Henderson, Washington Post, 10/10).

"I've said time and again, I'm a pro-life candidate. I'll be a pro-life president," Romney said at a campaign stop in Ohio.

Romney pledged to "immediately ... remove funding for Planned Parenthood," adding that it "will not be part of [his] budget."

He then reiterated a pledge to reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy (Friedman, "The Note," ABC News, 10/10). The policy, also known as the "global gag rule," blocks U.S. foreign aid to organizations that use their own money to offer abortion services or provide information about or referrals for abortion services. President Obama repealed the policy shortly after taking office in 2009.

Previous Statements

Romney's latest comments come after he told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."

Soon after the Register posted the story, Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul told the National Review Online that Romney "would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/10).

Obama Campaign's Response

In an ABC News interview, President Obama accused Romney of deliberately misleading voters. "Four weeks before the election, he is trying to cloud the question when it comes to women's right to control their own healthcare decisions," Obama said. Obama went on to state that his own record has been consistent, adding, "People will know where I stand, what I believe, what I'm fighting for" (Mehta/Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 10/10).

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, accused the Romney campaign of trying to hide his conservative positions from centrist voters. "They know that his anti-choice position, his anti-Roe v. Wade position, is bad for his campaign," she said, adding that the campaign has taken a similar approach on other issues, including changes to the Affordable Care Act and Medicare benefits.

Comments From Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards also commented on Romney's remarks. In a phone call with reporters on Wednesday, she noted that at least two dozen pieces of legislation are pending in Congress that would restrict abortion rights (Shear, "The Caucus," New York Times, 10/10).

She said it is disingenuous for Romney to say abortion is not part of his legislative agenda, adding, "There's no way for him to hide from his positions he's taken repeatedly over the years" (Lambert, Reuters, 10/10).

Ryan Stresses 'Unified' Position on Abortion

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- Romney's running mate -- insisted on Wednesday that the campaign has not shifted its position on abortion, adding that he and Romney are "unified" on the matter (Haberman, "Burns & Haberman," Politico, 10/10).

According to the Washington Post's "Election 2012 Blog," Ryan opposes abortion rights except when a woman's life is at risk, while Romney has at times said the procedure also should be available in cases of rape or incest (Sonmez, "Election 2012 Blog," Washington Post, 10/10).