Romney Walks Fine Line Between Conservative Finance & Women's Health

Can Romney find his way out of the women's health debate in time to win their vote?

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney cinched a victory against ultra-conservative rival Rick Santorum in Illinois last week, despite angering some women voters during a town hall along the campaign trail. The presidential hopeful, who has been applauded for extending health care resources for women while in the governor’s office, and who has reportedly attended fundraisers for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, has had to walk a fine line between upholding conservative finance policy and appeasing women on issues of reproductive health; a topic that has become a particularly hot button since he announced his bid for the Oval Office last year.

During a town hall meeting at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois last Monday, a young woman in the audience took the floor to tell Romney that, since he’s a champion for “freedom” and the “pursuit of happiness,” “free birth control” would make her happy. Her challenge was met with a short round of applause before the former Governor, who had recently said he’d defund Planned Parenthood when elected, responded, “If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy. That’s what he’s all about, okay?”

The GOP front-runner then went on to say he will expect the American public to sacrifice things they like along with the things they don’t care about in order to help the government cut the country’s rapidly growing deficit, which now stands around one-trillion dollars.  Romney added that politicians often get elected by promising more free services and products than they can deliver, but that he doesn’t subscribe to that tactic.

Later, after another woman asked Romney where he suggested women who depend on Planned Parenthood for their health care should go to seek services such as mammograms, he said they could go wherever they want, but that cuts to spending -- such as those he’s promised to make -- combined with turning the economy around is the only way to close the gap between government income and spending.  Still, women on both sides seem uneasy about having men making so many decisions about their reproductive health. 

Diana Prichard is a red-leaning freelance writer living and working in a blue state.  Follow her on Twitter: @diana_prichard

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