Romney on Abortion: No New Legislation!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 10 2012 3:42 PM

Romney on Abortion: No New Legislation!

The story started at 8 a.m. or so, when the Des Moines Register released a summary of its edit board interview with Mitt Romney. Spot the problem.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” he told the editorial board.

An affront to the pro-life movement? Not really, although the Obama campaign's had fun portraying it that way. Pro-lifers are playing a long game, one that does not ask for that much new legislation. They want the return of the "Mexico City policy," which bars foreign aid money from going to organizations that fund abortions. Romney, in this interview, says he'll bring back that policy. They want Supreme Court justices who'll overturn Roe, because, in the states, they've successfully passed dozens of abortion restrictions that will tee off if Roe goes. Romney has said he'll appoint those justices.

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I think this is why D.C.-based pro-lifers immediately forgave Romney. According to TPM, the Romney campaign immediately worked the phones, and they got pro-lifers on message. "No new legislation" is a dodge -- very little needs to be done right now, legislatively, except maintaining the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life gains. But it's a revealing little ommission from Romney. During the primary, when Rick Santorum stubbornly won over conservative votes in the Midwest and South, Romney would list off the funds he planned to cut and include "Planned Parenthood." During the debate, he read out the same list -- except for Planned Parenthood. He's so defensive on the issue that you don't even notice he's side-stepping it. And that irritates some conservatives, obviously. But to win the elections on the rest of the ballot, they need to soft-pedal this issue, too. Thus the (failed) attempt to replace Todd Akin with a Republican who would vote the same way on abortion issues, but not talk about it so damn much.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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