In an exchange with President Obama during the second presidential debate at New York’s Hofstra University, Mitt Romney attempted to obscure his opposition to Obama’s mandate requiring employer sponsored insurance to cover contraception.
“In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured,” Obama said. “Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage.”
Given a chance to respond, Romney said, “I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And — and the — and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.”
It’s true Romney has never claimed bureaucrats or employers should be able to prohibit contraception. And he’s never taken the position that women shouldn’t have access to contraceptives.
But Romney inverted the issue. Obama criticized Romney not for opposing access to contraception, but for opposing a requirement that insurance cover contraceptives — a requirement he signed into law and that influential religious groups, religiously-affiliated employers, and Republicans strongly opposed.
In response to Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Republicans led by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced an amendment that would have overturned the mandate and, as Obama described, allowed employers to deny coverage of birth control and any other services they deemed morally objectionable.
At the debate, Romney tried to make it appear as if he opposed the Blunt amendment. But that’s not true. This issue dogged Romney during the GOP primary. Back in February, his opponents pounced when he told the Ohio News Network that he opposed Blunt’s bill. Romney quickly claimed he’d misunderstood the question and insisted “of course I support the Blunt amendment.”
A Romney spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Romney continues to campaign against the contraception requirement, which he claims tramples religious liberty. However, his 2006 Massachusetts health care law includes a practically identical mandate.
Romney’s former lieutenant governor, and campaign surrogate, Kerry Healy appeared on MSNBC Wednesday and called issue of contraceptive coverage “peripheral.”
Video from Think Progress.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.