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Amid confusion, Romney says he supports Blunt amendment

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mitt Romney this afternoon initially said he was opposed to legislation granting employers the right to exclude medical services from workers’ insurance on moral or religious grounds, telling an Ohio television station that he would not support the controversial Blunt amendment backed by many Senate Republicans, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

“I’m not for the bill,” Romney told ONN-TV, when asked if he had a position on the legislation. “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.”

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Romney’s campaign quickly clarified, claiming that Romney does support the legislation and was confused by the question.

“The way the question was asked was confusing,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Governor Romney supports the Blunt bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith.”

In another interview later today with Howie Carr, Romney said he had thought the ONN-TV interviewer was talkaing about “some state law” that would prevent people from getting contraception. “I clearly want to have people have a religious exemption from Obamacare.”

The Senate is planning to vote on the amendment tomorrow, so Romney’s opposition would have sparked a furor among key Republican senators on a high-profile conservative issue. Still, his confusion could spark controversy that the former Massachusetts governor – already distrusted by some conservatives – is not well versed enough in issues they hold dear.

His opposition would have also put him at odds with Senator Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican and sponsor of the legislation, as well as Brown, who is a co-sponsor.

ONN-TV reporter Jim Heath prefaced the question with a brief explanation of the legislation. “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?”

The Romney campaign said the question was confusing because it said the legislation would ban contraception — which it would not.

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for President Obama, was quick to decry Romney’s swift change of positions.

“In one hour, Mitt Romney showed why women don’t trust him for one minute,” she said in a statement. “It took little more than an hour for him to commit his latest flip-flop. Even worse, he ended up on the wrong side of an issue of critical importance to women.

“The Blunt amendment would allow any employer to deny their female employees coverage because of that employer’s own beliefs,” she said. “With his support of this amendment, Mitt Romney is taking important health care decisions about contraception, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings among other issues out of women’s hands and into the hands of their bosses.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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