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Romney Supports Conscience Bill

7:15 PM, Feb 29, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Earlier today, a reporter in Ohio said the following to Mitt Romney: 

[Santorum has] 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 replied: 

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.

Prior to the release of the transcript of the interview, there were breathless blog posts and Tweets that Romney didn't support the Blunt amendment--the bill that would restore the conscience protections that existed before Obamacare. It was hard to believe Romney would take that position on a bill strongly supported by Republicans (and some Democrats). Romney has been talking about Obamacare's assault on religious freedom since his January 31 Florida victory speech (here's a February 3 op-ed he published in the Washington Examiner on the issue).

Indeed, the transcript makes it clear that Romney was responding to the reporter's incredibly erroneous description of the bill as a "ban" on contraception. "Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing. Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith," said Romney spokeperson Andrea Saul. Clearly, the reporter did mangle the question, and Romney personally affirmed his support for the bill during a radio interview this evening.

How much is it Romney's fault that he didn't hear the reporter say "Blunt-Rubio" and correct the reporter's mischaracterization of the bill? Not much. Imagine if there were a bill to repeal parts of the Patriot Act, and a reporter asked a Democratic presidential candidate: "Do you support Senator X's bill to give terrorists all the rights of American citizens?" If the Democrat said "no," most people would understand it was the reporter's fault for mischaracterizing the bill, and not the Democrat's fault for failing to remember what "Senator X's" bill would do. 

Politicians are supposed to know their positions on issues, not which particular senators are supporting particular bills. In the past, Romney has wrongly tried to blame a gaffe or two on the press, but in this case bad journalism was almost entirely to blame.

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