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Wednesday
Oct102012

Mitt Romney's Softer Abortion Stance Poses Challenge to Ryan Before Debate

J.D. Pooley/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney says he has no plans to push new anti-abortion laws if elected, a position that could put him at odds with parts of his core constituency and his own running mate, Paul Ryan.

"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," the Republican presidential nominee told Iowa's Des Moines Register editorial board Tuesday.

Ryan, who will debate Vice President Biden Thursday Danville, Ky., has been one of the most active anti-abortion members of Congress, co-sponsoring a so-called "personhood" amendment during his last term. Under the proposed law, terminating a pregnancy would become illegal, even in cases of rape.

Romney's comment inspired a unique kind of agreement between the two campaigns Wednesday, with both sides arguing the Republican was more dedicated to the anti-abortion cause than his remark in Iowa would suggest.

"Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said just hours after the comments were posted online. She later added Romney "would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life."

From Chicago, the Obama camp pounced with spokeswoman Lis Smith saying today, "It's troubling that Mitt Romney is so willing to play politics with such important issues. ...Women simply can't trust him."

"We're not saying that he's changed his mind on these issues," deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said. "We're saying he's trying to cover up his beliefs."

In the aftermath of his well-received debate performance, Romney has seen his support among women voters rise. Recent polls show him even with or just behind Obama, who has held a commanding lead for much of the campaign season.

The Susan B. Anthony list, a leading anti-abortion organization, told ABC News it was standing by Romney despite his softened rhetoric.

"He truly holds to the pro-life view in his mind and heart," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said Wednesday morning. "That's who he is."

In a statement released earlier, Dannenfelser expressed "full confidence that as president, Governor Romney will stand by the pro-life commitments he laid out," which include pledges to defund Planned Parenthood and pursue more stringent late-term abortion bans.

Romney's tack to center could create some complications for his vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, who arrives in Kentucky Wednesday ahead of Thursday's debate at Centre College in Danville.

The Wisconsin congressman has been one of the anti-abortion lobby's most dependable voices in Washington, D.C. Last year, he worked with Missouri Senate candidate and House colleague Todd Akin on a bill stating "the life of each human being begins with fertilization… at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood."

Romney, who supported abortion rights during his time as governor in Massachusetts, has changed his position and earned the backing of groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, which calls his new commitment to the anti-abortion cause "concrete."

But unlike his running mate, Romney would make exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape and incest.

Ryan discussed the gap in their philosophies during a brief discussion aboard his campaign plane late in August.

"I'm proud of my record," Ryan said. "Mitt Romney is going to be president and the president sets policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. I'm comfortable with it because it's a good step in the right direction."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio