WASHINGTON Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney re-affirmed his pro-life position Tuesday in the wake of a controversy his supporters said was blown out of context.
It began when a member of the Des Moines Register editorial board asked Romney on Tuesday if he intended "to pursue any legislation specifically regarding abortion" if elected president.
"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney said before adding, "One thing I would change, however, which would be done by executive order not by legislation is that I would reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which [says] that foreign aid dollars from the United States would not be used to carry out abortion in other countries."
Romney said "it's long been" the practice of the United States to make sure "taxpayer dollars are not to be used to fund abortion." He then criticized President Obama for overturning the Mexico City Policy in January 2012.
Several media reports said Romney's legislation comments meant he was backing off his pro-life beliefs. Romney's supporters, though, said the nominee simply was acknowledging that the legality of abortion is decided in the judicial and not the legislative realm. Congress could send Romney a pro-life bill and it not officially be part of his "agenda," his supporters said.
"That was just an issue of semantics," Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told Newsmax.com. "They asked him what his legislative agenda is. A judicial appointment is not legislation."
Said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican: "Having read those comments from Governor Romney, what he was saying is, his overwhelming priority is going to be creating jobs, getting the economy back on track."
Faced with a pushback from the media, Romney said, "I think I've said time and again, I'm a pro-life candidate. I'll be a pro-life president."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, also vouched for Romney.
“I’ve looked him in the eye, discussed this issue, and I absolutely believe in my heart and know that he is personally committed to a pro-life agenda as president,” Christie told radio host Laura Ingraham on her radio program.
Obama, who is pro-choice, said Romney is trying to hide his position.
"He thinks that it is appropriate for politicians to inject themselves in those decisions," Obama said of abortion. "Gov. Romney has made very clear that if a bill comes to his desk that overturns Roe. v. Wade, that he would be fully supportive of that. And he said, ‘I will appoint justices that will overturn Roe vs. Wade.’"
Romney has called for the reversal of Roe several times, including in January on the 39th anniversary of the decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A reversal would have to come from the Supreme Court, not Congress.
"Today marks the 39th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history, when the court in Roe v. Wade claimed authority over the fundamental question regarding the rights of the unborn," Romney said in a statement in January. "The result is millions of lives since that day have been tragically silenced. Since that day, the pro-life movement has been working tirelessly in an effort to change hearts and minds and protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Today, we recommit ourselves to reversing that decision, for in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America."