Romney told The Des Moines Register in an interview Tuesday that he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if elected president. His campaign tried to walk back the remarks, saying he would support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life, without elaborating.
Obama's campaign jumped on the apparent shift to shore up support among women. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters on a conference call that Romney was "cynically and dishonestly" hiding his positions on abortion and other women's issues and that the incumbent's campaign would seek to ensure that women are "not fooled."
Romney told reporters in Ohio that he would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and reinstate an administrative ban, known as the Mexico City policy, on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions.
"I think I've said time and again that I'm a pro-life candidate and I'll be a pro-life president," Romney said.
"The actions I'll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget," Romney said. "And also I've indicated I'll reverse the Mexico City position of the president. I will reinstate the Mexico City policy, which keeps us from using foreign aid for abortions overseas."
Romney's campaign also reached out to women voters in new ways Wednesday. The candidate noted at the top of his town hall that he was wearing a pin in honor of breast cancer awareness month and his wife was a guest host on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Mrs. Romney spoke intimately about her depression after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 14 years ago and how horses helped her overcome it.
"I was very, very weak and very much worried about my life, thinking I was going to be in a wheelchair as well. Turned to horses, my life has been dramatically different," said Mrs. Romney, part-owner of a horse that competed this summer in the Olympic sport of dressage. "They gave me the energy, the passion to get out of bed when I was so sick that I didn't think I'd ever want to get out of bed."
In a separate interview broadcast Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "America's Newsroom," Mrs. Romney said she immediately knew as the first presidential debate began last week that her husband would win because of the energy he showed. And she sharply disputed accusations from Obama's campaign that her husband failed to tell the truth during the debate.
"It's sort of like someone that, you know, in the sandbox that, like, lost the game. And they're just going to kick sand in someone's face and say, 'You liar,'" she said. "I mean, it's like they lost, and so now they just are going to say, 'OK, the game, you know, we didn't like the game.' So it's to me, it's poor sportsmanship."
Pickler reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Julie Pace and Ben Feller contributed to this report.
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