Mediaite's Tommy Christopher actually summed up this segment from this Saturday's ABC GOP debate quite nicely where he explained some of Mitt Romney's feigned ignorance on the issues of privacy, women's reproductive rights and whether states should be allowed to ban contraception.
At tonight’s ABC News/WMUR Republican presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stumbled badly on a Constitutional question from moderator George Stephanopoulos, first trying to punt it to “our Constitutionalist” Ron Paul, then demonstrating painful ignorance about the issues of privacy and banning contraception. To his credit, George pursued him like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. The Republican crowd was none too pleased with the line of questioning, booing Stephanopoulos several times.
As Christopher pointed out, Romney pretended not to know that a number of states have introduced "personhood" laws that could ban most forms of birth control and Stephanopoulos had to answer Romney's question for him when he asked this:
Then Romney displayed the fruits of that education. “Has the Supreme Court decided states do not have the right to provide contraception?” he asked.
Oof. The first thing you learn in law school is never to ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.
“Yes,” Stephanopoulos answered, “they have. ’65, Griswold v. Connecticut.”
What Christopher failed to note is that Mitt Romney has actually been confronted on the issue of defining life as beginning at conception and the fact that it would ban most forms of birth control at a town hall meeting back in October, which makes his little act of his here particularly egregious.
Here's more for a trip down the memory hole that Mitt Romney has pretended to forget about during this debate from October of last year -- Iowa Woman Schools Romney on Anti-Abortion Amendment and Birth Control:
A woman in Iowa on Thursday gave Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a lesson in why his support for a state constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception would have effectively ended up banning many forms of birth control.
Earlier this month, the candidate told Fox News host and evangelical Christian Mike Huckabee that he would have supported a state constitutional amendment to ban abortion if it would have prevented abortions from being covered by the health care law he enacted while serving as the governor of Massachusetts.
"Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established definition of life beginning of life at conception?" Huckabee asked.
"Absolutely," Romney replied.
At a town hall event in Sioux City, Iowa Thursday, a woman told Romney that she was concerned about what this meant for hormonal birth control.
"That would essentially mean banning most forms of birth control," she noted. "Ninety-eight percent of American women, including me, use birth control. So, could you help me understand why you oppose the use of birth control?"
"I don't," Romney declared. "Life begins at conception; birth control prevents conception." [...]
Romney's plan to "return the right to the states" would allow them to enforce life-begins-at-conception laws, effectively banning the forms of birth control that he claims not to be against. [...]
A 2005 Guttmacher Institute report found that 18 states, including Massachusetts, defined pregnancy as beginning with fertilization or conception.
"[I]t is likely that the proponents of the state laws may have been unaware of how the various contraceptive methods actually work, and were probably not taking aim at them directly," the report states. "On the other hand, many in the antiabortion movement clearly understand the modes of action for contraceptive methods, especially the hormonal methods. Understanding that, they have to know that the end result of enforcing a definition that pregnancy begins at fertilization would implicate not just some hormonal methods, but all of them."
The fringe anti-abortion group Personhood USA has recently been successful at getting more states to take up their legislation that defines life as beginning at fertilization.
Here's the full transcript of the exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, do the states have the right to ban conception, or is that trumped by a Constitutional right to privacy?
ROMNEY: George, this is an unusual topic that you're raising. Do states have a right to ban conception? I can't imagine a state banning conception. 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 of a state, I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban conception. 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 a Constitutionally be done? You can ask our Constitutionalist here...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Governor, I'm asking you, do you believe that states have that right or not?
ROMNEY: George, I don't know whether a state has a right to ban conception. 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 ask me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing I think.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on a second. governor, you went to Harvard law school. you know very well this is based on…
ROMNEY: Has the Supreme Court decided states do not have the right to provide contraception?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, they have. 1965, Griswold v Connecticut.
ROMNEY: I believe that the law of the land 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 issues that relate to same sex marriage and my view is 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 conception in this regard.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you accept the Supreme Court decision finding a right to privacy in the Constitution?
ROMNEY: I don't believe that they decided that correctly. My view, Roe v Wade was improperly decided and it was based upon that same principle and in my view if we had Justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia and more 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 justices...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should that be done in this case?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should that be done in this case?
ROMNEY: Should this be done in this case to allow states to ban conception? No. States don't want to ban conception, so why would we try to put it into the Constitution? With regards to gay marriage, I told you that’s when I would amend the constitution. Contraception, it’s working just fine, just leave it alone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. You're still... you've given two answers to the question. Do you believe that the Supreme Court should overturn it or not?
ROMNEY: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn... do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v Wade? Yes. I do.
One last note on Christopher's post. Here's how he wrapped it up:
This kind of ignorance might play well with an audience that feeds on media victimhood, but in a general election, Romney is going to need to be better prepared for questions like these.
That's putting it mildly. Romney has moved to the right of Attila the Hun on so many issues, how he ever manages to move back to the proverbial "center" during a general election is beyond me. He's going to have to boomerang so hard it will give him whiplash and that's a feat even multiple-choice Mitt might have some problems with. It's one thing to try to disavow something you said years ago. It's another to try it with things you just said in the last year. Given the fact that he got away with telling as many lies as he did during this "debate" and I use that term lightly, I'm sure he's counting on the media to continue to give him a pass.
He should have been questioned about his town hall where he was confronted over the birth control issue and the moderators either didn't do their homework, or they chose to ignore it. I hope he doesn't get that same sort of pass once the debates for the general election start if he's the nominee, which it's looking more likely each day he will be. None of the other candidates challenged him in any substantial way during this debate either, so they all just helped him along in that regard.