DES MOINES, Iowa - Wading into an explosive social issue, Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday said he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if elected president.
"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," he told the Des Moines Register in an interview posted on the newspaper's website.
The former Massachusetts governor said he would instead use an executive order to reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans American aid from funding abortions. President Barack Obama waived the order soon after taking office.
Romney's statement to the newspaper represents an apparent shift on a topic Obama's campaign has tried to use against him, particularly with female voters. Soon after the comments were posted on the Register's website, the president's campaign pounced.
"We know the truth about where he stands on a woman's right to choose: He's said he'd be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortions, and called Roe v. Wade `one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,' while pledging to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn it. Women simply can't trust him," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said.
As recently as a presidential debate in January, Romney said the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion across the nation.
Social issues were a focus during the Republican presidential primary earlier in the year as Romney struggled to win over skeptical conservatives. He has focused on economic issues since claiming his party's nomination and offered a moderate tone in recent days.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund says Romney's statement is misleading.
"Mitt Romney's views on women's health are far outside of the mainstream, and that's why he's trying to hide them in the last weeks until the election," said action fund executive vice president Dawn Laguens.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul did not back away from the Des Moines Register comments when asked for clarification Tuesday night.
"Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president," she said.