(NEW YORK) — Mitt Romney promised Wednesday he would govern as a “pro-life president” less than 24 hours after telling an Iowa newspaper he saw “no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
His earlier comments threatened to put him at odds with segments of his core constituency and box in running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, a staunch opponent of abortion rights who has been careful to keep in line with Romney’s less strict approach.
Romney sought to reinforce his anti-abortion credentials Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters he would immediately “remove funding for Planned Parenthood” and “reinstate the Mexico City policy,” which bans federal money from being used by private organizations “to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning.”
“I’ve said time and time again, I’m a pro-life candidate,” Romney told reporters during a stop at a restaurant in Ohio Wednesday. “I’ll be a pro-life president.”
Asked about Romney’s Iowa remarks on the trail Wednesday, Ryan told reporters in St. Petersburg, Fla., “Our position’s unified. Our position is consistent and hasn’t changed.”
Romney was prompted to bolster his anti-abortion stance after an interview with the Des Moines Register on Tuesday where he said, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
The comment appeared to be a marked shift for the GOP candidate who has pledged during the campaign to advocate support for specific legislation restricting abortion rights.
President Obama seized on the confusion during an exclusive interview with ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer.
“This is another example of Governor Romney hiding positions he’s been campaigning on for a year and a half,” Obama said.
“Is it a lie?” Sawyer asked.
“No, I actually think… when it comes to women’s rights to control their own health care decisions, you know, what he has been saying is exactly what he believes,” the president answered. “[Romney] thinks that it is appropriate for politicians to inject themselves in those decisions.”
Romney’s comments and the resulting back-and-forth have resulted in an unusual, if unintentional, agreement between the two campaigns, with both sides arguing the Republican presidential nominee was more dedicated to the anti-abortion cause than his remark in Iowa would suggest.
“Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said after the original interview was posted online.
Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter accused Romney not of reversing himself on the abortion issue, but “trying to cover up his beliefs.”
In the aftermath of a well-received debate performance, Romney has seen his support among women voters rise. Recent polls show him even with or just behind Obama, who has held a commanding lead for much of the campaign season.
Romney, who supported abortion rights during his time as governor in Massachusetts, has changed his position and earned the backing of anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, which calls his new commitment to the anti-abortion cause “concrete.”
As for Ryan, being asked to square his views with Romney’s is nothing new. He discussed the gap in their philosophies during a brief discussion aboard his campaign plane late in August.
“I’m proud of my record,” Ryan said. “Mitt Romney is going to be president and the president sets policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction.”
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