Romney is not sure we have a right to contraception, doesn’t understand the big deal anyway

Given that Romney is supposedly the moderate, reasonable Republican alternative to the extremism of Santorum, you’d think he’d want to draw the contrast a bit more clearly than he does in this clip from the New Hampshire debate. When asked if he, like Santorum, believes states have the right to ban contraception, Romney acted like he was positively offended that he should have to answer such a silly, irrelevant question.

The faux confusion is cute, isn’t it? Gee golly, I can’t imagine why a state would want to ban contraception. Me neither. I just know that several have considered Personhood amendments that would do just that. (If Romney isn’t familiar with them, he should read up–they are kind of a big deal these days.) Sure, a state actually banning birth control is probably unlikely–if only because it’s totally unconstitutional thanks to that decision Romney is not sure he supports. But, between Personhood amendments and the unprecedented attacks on family planning funding last year, it’s clear the anti-contraception movement in the U.S. has never been stronger.

As Tracy Clark-Flory wrote recently, “the [GOP's] presidential candidates have perhaps never been more out of step with the sexual beliefs and practices of most Americans.” If Romney wants to differentiate himself from the rest of the fringe social conservatives in the crew, he needs a better answer than, “Contraception? It’s working just fine.” Something more along the lines of: “Contraception? It’s a right. Period.”

Apologies for the lack of transcript. If anyone would like to post one in comments, we’d be very grateful.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • toongrrl

    Oh my God, SNL is right. He does look like a Lifetime Movie villain. Romney grow a brain

  • kelly

    Again you missed the oppurtunity to appreciate the clear principles of Ron Paul on this question who answered to this question after Romney, ” No, I think the Fourth Amendment is very clear. It is explicit in our privacy. You can’t go into anybody’s house and look at what they have or their papers or any private things without a search warrant.

    This is why the Patriot Act is wrong, because you have a right of privacy by the Fourth Amendment. As far as selling contraceptives, the Interstate Commerce Clause protects this because the Interstate Commerce Clause was originally written not to impede trade between the states, but it was written to facilitate trade between the states. So if it’s not illegal to import birth control pills from one state to the next, it would be legal to sell birth control pills in that state.”

  • Emily Johnson

    George Stephanopolous: Governor Romney, I want to go straight to you. Senator Santorum has been very clear in his belief that the Supreme Court was wrong when it decided that a right to privacy was embedded in the Constitution. Following from that, he believes that states have the right to ban contraception. Now, I should add that he’s said that he’s not recommending that states do that –

    Santorum: No, I’m saying that… [inaudible]

    GS: Well, I’ll be clearer.

    Santorum: Ok.

    GS: Absolutely, I’m giving you your due.

    Santorum: … about the Tenth Amendment and the right of states to act.

    GS: But I do want to get to that core question.

    Santorum: Ok.

    GS: Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception, or is that trumped by a Constitutional right to privacy?

    Romney: Uh. George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising. [Do] states have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were a governor of a state, or a legislator…

    GS: [inaudible]

    Romney: Or a legislator of a state, I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you’re asking – given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so – you’re asking could it constitutionally be done? We could ask our constitutionalist here. [Gestures at Ron Paul]

    [Laughter, Applause]

    GS: But I’m asking you. Do you believe that states have that right or not?

    Romney: George. I don’t know what the state [sic] has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.

    [Laughter, Applause]

    GS: Hold on. Governor, you went to Harvard Law School. You know very well… [inaudible]

    Romney: Has the Supreme Court decided that states do not have the right to provide [sic] contraception?

    GS: Yes, they have. 1965. Griswold v. Connecticut.

    Romney: I believe in the – that the law of the land is as spoken by the Supreme Court and that if we disagree with the Supreme Court (and occasionally I do), that we have a process under the Constitution to change that decision, and it’s known as the amendment process. And where we have – for instance, we’re having issues right now that relate to same-sex marriage. My view is that we should have a federal amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But I know of no reason to talk about contraceptions [sic].

    GS: [inaudible] …the Supreme Court decision finding a right to privacy in the Constitution?

    Romney: I don’t believe they decided that correctly. In my view, Roe v. Wade was improperly decided; it was based upon that same principle, and in my view, if we had justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, and other justices like that, they might well decide to return this issue to states, as opposed to saying it’s in the federal Constitution. And by the way, if the people say it should be in the federal Constitution, then instead of having unelected judges stuff it in there when it’s not there, we should allow the people to express their own views through amendment and add it to the Constitution. But this idea that justice…

    GS: Should that be done in this case?

    Romney: Pardon?

    GS: Should that be done in this case?

    Romney: Should this be done in that case, to allow states to ban contraception? No. States don’t want to ban contraception, so why would we try to put it in the Constitution? With regards to gay marriage, I’ve told you, that’s when I would amend the Constitution. Contraception? It’s working just fine. Just leave it alone.