As the presidential campaign swirls around a war for the allegiance of American women, the Obama campaign is relying on an explosive — and highly questionable — charge to draw pro-choice women into the President's camp: That Mitt Romney would "outlaw abortion" if elected.
The claim first surfaced in a document posted to the campaign's website Wednesday titled, "5 Things You Need To Know About Mitt Romney." The last bullet point — which has been retweeted by Barack Obama and his campaign staffers over the past 24 hours— says, "He'd get rid of Planned Parenthood and outlaw abortion."
A review of the Republican's conflicted abortion record reveals that claim to be a stretch, at best. While Romney has undergone a long, public evolution on this issue over the past two decades — straining, at times, to defend his pro-life credentials to suspicious conservatives — he's never called for an outright federal ban on all abortions.
Rather, Romney's current position advocates overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to make their own abortion laws. He has also supported ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood — tough positions to sell in the general election, perhaps, but nowhere near the Obama campaign's characterization.
A Romney aide, evidently unwilling to be drawn into a confrontation on the Democratic turf of abortion rights, declined to comment on whether Romney would "outlaw abortion," but said he wants to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, not to "get rid of" the group itself.
But when asked whether whether they believe Romney is seeking to outlaw abortion, even the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List demurred.
"Mitt Romney has made clear that he supports a reversal of Roe v. Wade and looks forward to legislatures once again having the ability to limit abortion by law," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "He supports federal action now to end funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, and any similar organization that performs abortion or offers abortion-related services."
Responding to requests for evidence to back up its claim, a senior Obama aide directed BuzzFeed to a moment in a 2007 CNN Republican primary debate, during which moderator Anderson Cooper posed a hypothetical question to the candidates: If Roe v. Wade were overturned and Congress passed a federal abortion ban, would you sign it?
Romney responded characteristically, attaching a condition before taking the plunge. He said he "would be delighted to sign that bill" — if there were a national consensus on the issue.
"But that's not where we are," he continued, pivoting back to his own platform. "That's not where America is. Where America is is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority."