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Romney vs. personhood

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A year before the general election, local women's rights activists, including Planned Parenthood, have joined Democratic efforts nationwide to label Mitt Romney an "extremist" when it comes to women's reproductive rights.

"We see this as an important moment to really begin to draw some attention to the extremity of Mitt Romney's positions and to raise the voice of those who care about women and women's health issues," Jennifer Frizzell, a senior policy advisor with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Action Fund, said in a conference call with reporters yesterday.

In a USA Today op-ed last week, Romney said he would reduce government spending by eliminating "family planning programs benefiting abortion groups like Planned Parenthood." In the same piece, Romney singled out Title X, a program established in 1970 to provide access to contraceptive services and supplies.

"The test should be this: 'Is this program so critical that it is worth borrowing money to pay for it?'" Romney wrote.

That piece, in conjunction with a statement last month that he "absolutely" would have supported an amendment to the Massachusetts Consitution that defined the beginning of life at conception, shows just how extreme Romney has become, advocates said.

Title X serves about 30,000 women in New Hampshire annually, said Mary Rauh, a women's health advocate in New Castle.

"This is such a good example of why politicians shouldn't practice medicine," Rauh said during the conference call.

The call came as Mississippi voters were determining the outcome of Initiative 26, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define life as starting with conception.

Opponents of the measure say it would be so extreme it would prevent victims of rape or incest from receiving abortions and prevent a plethora of birth control options.

A spokesman said that Romney is pro-life and does not think federal tax dollars should fund abortions, but also believes Mississippi voters should decide the fate of their own constitution.

"(Romney) supports the right of voters to make a decision on amendments that affect their state," Ryan Williams said.

An advertisement released by the national Democratic Party last week linked Romney's support for a  change to the Massachusetts Constiution stating life starts at conception to Mississippi Initiative 26.

In an Oct. 1 interview, Romney replies, "Absolutely," when Mike Huckabee asks him if he would have supported a change to the Massachusetts Constitution when he was governor.

In the Democratic ad, that "absolutely" is repeated over and over as women describe the fear and potential negative consequences of the success of Initiative 26.

"Mitt Romney: 'Absolutely' wrong for women," the ad's final frame says.

It was the exact same message Frizzell and others were making yesterday.

"It's time that women in New Hampshire tell Mitt Romney that we won't stand for attacks on life-saving health care," Rauh said.

To that end, Planned Parenthood's Action Fund has launched a new website, womenarewatching.com, to help women voters learn exactly where candidates stand on reproductive issues. The site includes a list of states that need watching - including New Hampshire - as well as a pledge for women to do things like, "read between the lines of campaign propaganda" and "demand that candidates support access to women's health care."

"We know that women are looking for a mechanism to share their energy and to pay attention to what candidates are saying," Frizzell said.

 

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