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Newt Plans to Hit Mitt on Romneycare and Abortion

6:36 PM, Jan 1, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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After pledging to run a positive campaign (that really wasn't so positive), Newt Gingrich tells reporters he's ready to attack Romney. The New York Times reports

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Newt Gingrich said on Sunday that he intended to campaign in New Hampshire, where polls show him running third, rather than move directly to South Carolina, where he is leading.

He said he considered New Hampshire as “the perfect” place for him to confront Mitt Romney, who is leading there and in Iowa, about the health care program he oversaw when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Mr. Gingrich said Mr. Romney was vulnerable because the health care program covers abortion and includes a requirement that an advisory panel appoint one member from Planned Parenthood.

Here's the case against--and a defense of--Romney on the issue Gingrich is now raising--from a recent issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD:

[Bob] Vander Plaats says that one big stumbling block for Romney is the Massachusetts health care law’s coverage of elective abortions. “They can try to spin” Romneycare, he says. “The fact is that abortions are still allowed under that law, and the state is involved in funding those abortions. That’s just not all that long ago.” In fact, the law passed in 2006—after Romney’s pro-life conversion. 

Taxpayer funding of abortion is highly unpopular among the general electorate and outright toxic with Republicans. Voters opposed public funding of abortion by 72 percent to 23 percent in a 2009 Quinnipiac poll. Republicans opposed it by an eye-popping 91 percent to 5 percent. The issue nearly brought down Obama’s health care bill in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. And Huckabee hit Romney on the issue of state-subsidized abortions in the closing days of the 2008 Iowa campaign. Mitt Romney “comes on and says he’s pro-life and yet he signed a bill that gives a $50 co-pay for an elective abortion in his state’s health care plan,” Huckabee said during a Meet the Press appearance four days before the caucuses. Romney lost Iowa to Huckabee by 9 points.

The Romney campaign says the attack that helped sink his Iowa campaign in 2008 is unfounded. “Longstanding court precedent requires Massachusetts to cover abortion services in government-subsidized plans,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul writes in an email to The Weekly Standard. “Decisions about what services to cover were ultimately determined by the independent Health Care Connector Authority pursuant to the law.”

It’s true that the Massachusetts supreme court ruled in 1981 that the state must fund abortions for people on government health plans such as Medicaid. Twelve other states—including conservative or battleground states such as Arizona, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Alaska—pay for abortions for Medicaid recipients because of state supreme court rulings. Only four states have enacted laws through the legislative process to allow taxpayer funding of abortion.

Still, some social conservatives don’t buy Romney’s defense that it’s all the fault of the judges. “You know what I would think if I were a pro-lifer? That’s a pretty darn good reason not to have the government take over the health care system,” says Steve Deace, a Christian conservative Iowa radio host and longtime Romney antagonist. “Forget the mandate, which is wrong to begin with. The first moral principle is don’t murder.”

Why would Romney expand access to government-subsidized health care if those plans would cover elective abortions? David French of Evangelicals for Mitt says that argument is a “classic example of not understanding what an actual governor of an actual blue state has to face.”

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