The XX Factor

Romney Takes a Hard Right on Winding Reproductive Rights Road

Mitt is happy.

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Mitt Romney managed to create a minor kerfuffle on Tuesday by issuing a spineless, wordy statement on abortion, which Will Saletan correctly pointed out was designed to make him seem moderate on the issue while not reneging on his intentions to move toward serious restrictions on abortion and contraception access. Some reporters took the bait, invoking the irrelevant word “moderate” when Saletan’s word “weasel” was far more accurate, but it seems, publicly at least, that anti-choicers aren’t alarmed. Various anti-choice leaders told Talking Points Memo that they saw Romney’s dodginess for what it is (a distasteful but necessary way to win the White House), and have no doubt that he will be an active participant in the slashing and burning of women’s reproductive health care access if he wins.

But despite this public display of solidarity, it seems Romney still felt like he had to pay tribute to the uterus control-obsessives in his base, because Wednesday afternoon, he not only reiterated his anti-abortion position but reminded anti-choicers that he’s a participant in the newly aggressive war on contraception access too

I think I’ve said time and again that I’m a pro-life candidate and I’ll be a pro-life president. The actions I’ll take immediately is to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget. And also I’ve indicated that I will reverse the Mexico City position of the president. I will reinstate the Mexico City policy which keeps us from using foreign aid for abortions overseas.

The statement that Romney made was nicely adorned with the word “abortion,” but both policies in question are more about cutting off contraception access than abortion. None of the federal subsidies he wishes to cut for Planned Parenthood go to abortion, but instead are for other reproductive health care services such as STD testing and treatment and, of course, contraception. The same story with the “Mexico City policy.” What Romney is saying here is that he will reinstitute a rule that cuts off contraception funding to any foreign NGO that even mentions abortion at all to its patients. Obama reversed this policy, allowing contraception funding to return to overseas agencies, even if they have an overtly pro-choice stance or provide abortions, as long as the money doesn’t go directly toward those abortions.

A new study released last week demonstrates how effective contraception subsidies can be in lowering the abortion rate. Women and teenage girls who were given free contraception of their choice through the St. Louis program saw dramatically lower abortion rates: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women, compared to an area average of 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women and a national average of 20 abortions per 1,000 women. Anyone who cites “abortion” as an excuse to cut off funding for contraception programs cannot be taken seriously in light of these numbers, and that includes Mitt Romney.