Mitt Romney campaigns in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, hours after he visited Iowa. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
AKRON, Ohio — Mitt Romney does not intend to pursue legislation to restrict abortion if elected president, the Republican nominee told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board on Tuesday, setting off a late-night skirmish over the controversial social issue.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney said, according to the Iowa newspaper's website.
Romney did say he would reinstate through executive order a ban on American dollars being used to pay for abortions overseas. President Obama rescinded that ban.
Romney’s statement to the Register prompted leading Democrats to accuse him of contradicting positions he took during during the Republican primaries, when he called himself pro-life and "severely conservative." As Massachusetts governor, Romney initially supported abortion rights. Now, he would allow abortion only in cases of rape and incest and to save the mother's life.
President Obama’s campaign noted that Romney has said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would “hopefully” overturn Roe vs. Wade, and if the landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion were overturned and Congress passed an abortion ban, Romney would sign it.
“I’d be delighted to sign that bill,” Romney said in a 2007 GOP primary debate.
After the Register interview was posted on the Web, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Associated Press, “Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president.”
Later, she seemed to soften Romney's statement to the Register.
“Gov. Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life,” she told the AP.
Asked by The Times whether Romney’s position on abortion legislation had changed, Saul did not answer directly. Instead, she repeated her initial comment to the Associated Press: “Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president.”
The controversy came as Romney tried to woo women voters away from Obama. Throughout the campaign, the president has held a huge lead among women, according to public opinion polls. But last week’s presidential debate apparently undermined that lead.