Moderate This Statement

So Moderate Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register yesterday that he had no interest in promoting anti-abortion legislation as president:

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.

But by executive order, not by legislation, he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions, he said.

But then there’s this, via HuffPost’s Elise Foley:

The Romney campaign walked back the remark within two hours of the Register posting its story. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the National Review Online‘s Katrina Trinko that Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

And speaking of National Review Online, that’s who published Romney’s definitive statement on abortion policy during the Republican primary battle, when Romney was justifying his refusal to sign a very radical pledge presented by the Susan B. Anthony List:

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.

I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.

I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world.

I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.

So last year, in a carefully considered and drafted statement, Romney was all for new legislation to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and promised to “advocate and support” federal “fetal pain” legislation along the lines of bills being promoted by anti-choice legislators from sea to shining sea. He basically agreed to do anything within the president’s power to help The Cause, with the exception of administering litmus tests to a host of his appointees, which is what the SBA List was asking him to do. To some extent, his comments to the Register simply reflected the limitations of the executive branch on this particular subject, which has been a source of great frustration to anti-choicers over the years.

But Moderate Mitt should not be able to get away with bland reassurances on this issue–with his own campaign repudiating him almost on the spot–without dealing with specific pledges he made during this very campaign. Is he–on behalf of himself and his loyal running-mate, Paul Ryan, who up until now has been universally considered a leader in the anti-choice cause–specifically retracting promises to promote a funding ban on Planned Parenthood and federal legislation flatly banning abortions prior to some arbitrary point in the second trimester of pregnancy?

It would be good to know if Moderate Mitt is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.