I’m watching this unfold now on Twitter, after the original answer from earlier today. In an interview with Jim Heath, an Ohio reporter, Romney said he was against the Blunt Amendment which would exempt religious entities from being forced to provide female contraception:
“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 woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”
Responding to my request for comment, Romney’s spokesperson Andrea Saul emailed me this to clarify:
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.
For the sake of context, here is a longer transcript of the conversation:
HEATH: “He’s 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: “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.”
I’m not exactly sure what was confusing about Heath’s question. Let me illustrate, my emphasis:
HEATH: He’s brought contraception into this campaign. The issue of birth control, contraception, Blunt-Rubio is being debated …
Heath didn’t say bill, he simply named the title of the amendment
… I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it?
Banning or allowing employers to ban the forced provision of female contraceptives. It wasn’t the most graceful way to phrase the question, to be sure, but disagree with claims that it wasn’t easily understood. Is there further dialog that we’re missing? We’re told this is the conversation in its entirety. My initial reaction is to cast a distrustful eye towards most media, but there doesn’t seem to exist any claim of media malpractice here. Either Romney didn’t know what Blunt-Rubio was, in which case he should have refrained from comment and admitted such, or he’s actually against the amendment and is now looking for a way out given the reaction. Only Romney can clarify further.
I’ll update with anything that will shed light on this.
Related question: Is there anything sexist about only mandating female contraception?
*UPDATE 1: Some say that the addition of Rubio’s name (Blunt-Rubio) made the question confusing. However, I’ve heard a combination of both. Jake Tapper also remembers:
Regardless, it’s irrelevant to the context of the question.
It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it?
“Allowing employers to ban providing female contraception …” It doesn’t take a full set of wits to conclude in a few milliseconds that this means employer freedom, no federal mandate. Yes, you should support it.
*UPDATE 2: Watch the video of the Q&A and judge for yourself:
Again, Heath sucks at asking concise questions, but it’s pretty easy to understand. I’m not sure I follow Romney’s clarification here.
*UPDATE 4: The Romney camp released a statement affirming support for the amendment.
Blunt and Rubio both have separate amendments, the latter which is more limited in terms of services to which employers can claim conscientious objection, but Rubio did also co-sponsor Blunt’s amendment. You could argue that they’re so similar, it’s almost silly to use this as a basis for confusion.
Additionally, I don’t think it’s “making hay over nothing,” as a friend alluded in a private discussion, for the simple reason being that if it wasn’t clarified, this could have negatively impacted the vote scheduled tomorrow on the amendment. And adding to this further — if Romney was confused about the nature of the question, his negative answer left alone would have been spun by the media to create a bigger wedge between his camp and grassroots voters. It’s not about birth control; that’s a ruse progressives use to scare people way from the real issue: religious liberty. Aren’t you glad it was clarified?