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Mitt Romney Goes Moderate On Contraception Coverage, Glossing Over Past Position

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WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday continued to moderate his past positions, this time glossing over his previous support for a tough amendment on contraception policy.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Romney said people are free to buy health insurance policies that cover birth control if they choose. He compared it to deciding what color to paint a car.

Asked whether insurers should be required to cover birth control, Romney said, "Well it’s a question as to, should you get a car painted, you know, red or blue. I mean you can decide which you’d like. People who want to have contraceptive health insurance can choose that in their policy. Those that don’t have -- that choose not to can buy a policy with or without. It depends on the kind of policy you buy of course."

Romney's answer seemed to confuse the issue, which is not whether women should have their choice of insurance plans. The question is whether Romney agrees with President Barack Obama's contraception mandate, which requires most employers and insurers to offer health plans that cover birth control at no cost to women.

Romney strongly criticized the mandate earlier this year, calling it an assault on religious freedom, and said he supported Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) controversial measure that would have allowed any employer to refuse to cover birth control for any vague moral reason. Women who work for those employers, then, would not have the choice of a plan that covers contraception.

It's unclear from the interview on Tuesday whether Romney still believes employers and insurance companies should be able to deny women contraception coverage. (In the same interview, Romney softened his opposition to abortion, saying that he had no intention of supporting laws that restrict abortion rights.) He suggested employers offer a blanket $12,000 worth of health insurance coverage and allow employees to choose any policy they prefer -- which may be a policy that covers birth control and abortion.

"We are far more effective having people making their own choice than having the government tell them what they have to choose," Romney said.

Listen to Romney's comments:

CORRECTION: An original version of this story stated that Romney suggested employers offer their employees $10,000 worth of coverage from which to choose a plan. Romney actually suggested $12,000 as an example.

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