Are the Anti-Romney Abortion Ads Misleading?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 19 2012 2:03 PM

Are the Anti-Romney Abortion Ads Misleading?

Andy Kaczysnki plays a new Obama ad side-by-side with an old Romney answer on abortion. The upshot, according to Kaczysnski, is that OFA ripped Romney out of context, and the "ad edits out that Romney was speaking of a hypothetical situation where it was the consensus of the country to ban abortion. Romney adds 'that's not where we are today.'"

I've started to become the most annoying, pedantic scold there is about context, so I want to agree. But we might be too hung up on the hypothetical. Here's the quote in the ad.

COOPER: If Roe v. Wade was overturned, Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions, and it came to your desk, would you sign it?
ROMNEY: Let me say it, I'd be delighted to sign that bill!

Here's the full exchange. Cooper actually asks the question of other candidates before getting to Romney.

ROMNEY: I agree with Senator Thompson, which is we should overturn Roe v. Wade and return these issues to the states. I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period. That would be wonderful. I'd be delighted.

COOPER: The question is: Would you sign that bill?

ROMNEY: Let me say it. I'd be delighted to sign that bill. But that's not where we are. That's not where America is today. Where America is is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.

Obama's ad leaves out the "return these issues to the states" line, so, yeah, that's misleading. But Romney's starting premise is that "we should overturn Roe v. Wade." Overturn Roe, and in a vast swath of the country abortion is illegal, immediately. How would Roe be overturned, anyway? By replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a justice who'd vote the way Sam Alito votes. Which Romney has said he's all for doing. For some reason, it's considered "scare-mongering" to tell voters that the next president will appoint judges who'll rule in ways his partisans are going to like. But it's true when the NRA says that Obama appointees are less likely to uphold gun rights, and it's true when pro-choicers say that Romney's justices will probably want to do away with Roe, as he says he does.

So, sure -- misleading edit, but I'm not sure what context would change the fact that abortion faces a legal threat under Romney that it doesn't face under Obama.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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