Mitt Romney’s About-Face on Women’s Health

The candidate famous for flip-flops now vows to end family planning

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A few weeks ago — before Mississippi voters rejected a ballot measure to declare a fertilized egg a person — Mitt Romney told Mike Huckabee on Fox News that he “absolutely” supported a personhood amendment. Romney’s position sheds important light on how far out of the mainstream he is and how drastically he has changed his views since beginning his presidential run.

Just a few years ago, Romney was attending Planned Parenthood events and seeking the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. Today, he is to the right of Mississippi voters, unquestioningly supporting a proposal that would imperil the health of women and force government to intervene in personal medical decisions.

(MORE: The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom and Paradox)

But Romney’s dramatic reinvention of himself as a crusader against women’s health doesn’t stop there. In a recent USA Today op-ed, he proudly vowed to end the nation’s family planning program, also known as Title X. The program, signed into law decades ago by Republican President Richard Nixon, provides preventive health care, such as birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings and well-women checkups to 5 million women each year. It’s a program that consistently has bipartisan support because it saves lives, keeps women healthy, prevents unintended pregnancies and detects cancer early when it can best be treated. And because it’s fiscally smart — every $1 invested in family planning saves taxpayers $4.

One of the most important successes in the past year was the news that all FDA-approved birth control will be provided free of charge under the new Affordable Care Act. The measure will give millions of American women free access to birth control through their insurance plans — saving them money and helping to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. Romney would eliminate this huge advancement, since he has vowed to repeal the gains made for women under this historic legislation. By opposing Title X, he’s now committing to end preventive health care for millions of American women, care that includes family planning but also lifesaving cancer screenings — all in a desperate effort to win his party’s nomination.

(MORE: Why Radical Pro-Lifers Are Wasting Their Time)

Women’s health care should not have a party label. While Romney and a few of the Republican presidential candidates support measures that would impede women’s health-care rights, there are many Republicans (and Democrats) who support Planned Parenthood and access to women’s health. In fact, some Republicans, such as Margaret Goldwater, the wife of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, founded their local Planned Parenthood chapters. Traditional Republican values included both support for family planning and a firm commitment to keeping government small and out of folks personal lives.

As I’ve talked with women all over the country — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — the constant refrain I hear is “I just wish politicians understood my life and would make things easier, not harder.” By attacking the health and well-being of women in America to score political points, Romney is showing women exactly how little he understands their concerns — and their lives.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Women Are Watching campaign provides information to voters about where candidates stand on pivotal health care issues.