Mitt Romney Changes Argument on Contraception at Debate

It doesn't quite have the same ring as "binders full of women," but a comment Mitt Romney made during Tuesday's presidential debate about contraception has added fuel to the narrative that he has adopted more moderate policy positions in the final weeks of the campaign.

"I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they can have contraceptive care or not," Romney said. "Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives, and the president's statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong."

That comment appeared to be inconsistent with previous remarks Romney has made during the campaign about contraception. Those previous comments have been used by the Obama campaign to portray Romney as bad for women.

Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, all employers were initially required to provide contraception. A compromise later made religious organizations exempt, though not affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals and colleges.

In February, when that compromise was reached, Romney called it "an assault on religious conviction."

"I find it extraordinary that [President Obama] feels he can tell the Catholic Church what they have to provide for their employees, including devices and instruments they find contrary to their conscience," Romney said at town hall in Maine.

In August, he doubled down, running a television ad that accused the White House declaring a "war on religion."

"President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith," the ad said. "Mitt Romney believes that's wrong."

Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, a group that has been critical of the contraception clause of the Affordable Health Act, said Romney's comments at the debate "could be read as being inconsistent."

However, Donahue gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"I think Romney meant that employers should be allowed to make that decision [to provide contraception] on their own, without the federal government telling them they have to provide it," he said.