Mitt Romney told a local Ohio television reporter that he opposes legislation that would allow employers to opt out of providing contraception for their employees if they feel it violates their religious beliefs, but an hour later his campaign is walking it back.
The legislation, known as the Blunt-Rubio bill, is an attempt to limit the force of a controversial federal mandate on employers to offer contraception to workers.
“Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing,” said press secretary Andrea Saul in a statement to reporters. “Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith.”
This the most recent in several instances of Romney wading, apparently unprepared, into a complex, high-profile fight, and getting tangled in the weeds of the policy argument.
A Romney aide told BuzzFeed that the reporter, Ohio News Network’s Jim Heath, mischaracterized the bill as allowing employers to “ban providing female contraception,” to their employees. That is not what the bill does, something that would be clear to anyone following the debate on the subject.
Here is a transcript of the exchange:
HEATH: “He’s brought contraception into this campaign. 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: “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.”
HEATH: “Surprised that he went there?”
ROMNEY: “You know, I made it very clear when I was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos in a debate a while ago: contraception is working just fine, let’s just leave it alone.”
HEATH: “And the Personhood Amendment could potentially be on the ballot in Ohio this fall. What’s your position on this effort, Personhood?”
ROMNEY: “Well it’s interpreted differently by different states, so I’d have to look at the particular provision. We had a provision in my state that said that life began at conception, that’s a provision that I protected. The legislature passed a bill saying that no longer would life be determined to begin at conception, I vetoed that. So we can have a provision that describes life beginning when it in fact begins. At the same time, allowing people to have contraceptives.”