In Saturday night’s ABC News/Yahoo debate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and moderator George Stephanopoulos had a few disputatious moments on social issues which included abortion, Roe vs. Wade and contraception.
Here is a complete transcript of this portion of the debate:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in Manchester. Governor Romney, I want to go straight to you.
Senator Santorum has been very clear in his belief that the Supreme Court was wrong when it decided that a right to privacy was embedded in the Constitution. And following from that, he believes that states have the right to ban contraception. Now I should add that he said he’s not recommending that states do that…
RICK SANTORUM: No, I said — let’s be clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. I’m giving you your due…
SANTORUM: I’m talking about — we’re talking about the 10th Amendment and the right of states to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But I do want to get to that core question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney, do you believe that states have the right to ban contraception? Or is that trumped by a constitutional right to privacy?
MITT ROMNEY: George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising. States have a right to ban contraception? I can’t imagine a state banning contraception. I can’t imagine the circumstances where a state would want to do so, and if I were a governor of a state or…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the Supreme Court has ruled —
ROMNEY: … or a — or a legislature of a state — I would totally and completely oppose any effort to ban contraception. So you’re asking — given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so, and I don’t know of any candidate that wants to do so, you’re asking could it constitutionally be done? We can ask our constitutionalist here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m sure Congressman Paul…
ROMNEY: OK, come on — come on back…
STEPHANOPOULOS: … asking you, do you believe that states have that right or not?
ROMNEY: George, I — I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no — no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hold on a second. Governor, you went to Harvard Law School. You know very well this is based on…
ROMNEY: Has the Supreme Court — has the Supreme Court decided that states do not have the right to provide contraception? I…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, they have. In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut.
ROMNEY: The — I believe in the — that the law of the land is as spoken by the Supreme Court, and that if we disagree with the Supreme Court — and occasionally I do — then we have a process under the Constitution to change that decision. And it’s — it’s known as the amendment process.
And — and where we have — for instance, right now we’re having issues that relate to same-sex marriage. My view is, we should have a federal amendment of the Constitution defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But I know of — of no reason to talk about contraception in this regard.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’ve got the Supreme Court decision finding a right to privacy in the Constitution.
ROMNEY: I don’t believe they decided that correctly. In my view, Roe v. Wade was improperly decided. It was based upon that same principle. And in my view, if we had justices like Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia, and more justices like that, they might well decide to return this issue to states as opposed to saying it’s in the federal Constitution.
And by the way, if the people say it should be in the federal Constitution, then instead of having unelected judges stuff it in there when it’s not there, we should allow the people to express their own views through amendment and add it to the Constitution. But this idea that justice…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But should that be done in this case?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should that be done in this case?
ROMNEY: Should this be done in the case — this case to allow states to ban contraception? No. States don’t want to ban contraception. So why would we try and put it in the Constitution?
With regards to gay marriage, I’ve told you, that’s when I would amend the Constitution. Contraception, it’s working just fine, just leave it alone.
(APPLAUSE) STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. But you’ve given two answers to the question. Do you believe that the Supreme Court should overturn it or not?
ROMNEY: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn…
(SOMEONE IN AUDIENCE YELLING)
ROMNEY: Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes, I do.
REP. RON PAUL: He mentioned my name.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead then.
PAUL: I didn’t know whether I got time when it was favorable or not. But thank you. No, I think the Fourth Amendment is very clear. It is explicit in our privacy. You can’t go into anybody’s house and look at what they have or their papers or any private things without a search warrant.
This is why the Patriot Act is wrong, because you have a right of privacy by the Fourth Amendment. As far as selling contraceptives, the Interstate Commerce Clause protects this because the Interstate Commerce Clause was originally written not to impede trade between the states, but it was written to facilitate trade between the states. So if it’s not illegal to import birth control pills from one state to the next, it would be legal to sell birth control pills in that state.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Santorum?
SANTORUM: What’s the question?
STEPHANOPOULOS: On the right to privacy and the response to Congressman Paul.
SANTORUM: Well, Congressman Paul is talking about privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment, which I agree with him in, I don’t necessarily agree that the Patriot Act violates that. But I do agree with — obviously we have a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. But that’s not what the Griswold decision nor the Roe v. Wade decision were about.
They created through a penumbra of rights a new right to privacy that was not in the Constitution. And what I’ve — and that’s, again, I sort of agree with Governor Romney’s assessment — legal assessment, it created a right through boot-strapping, through creating something that wasn’t there. I believe it should be overturned.
I am for overturning Roe versus Wade. I do not believe that we have a right in this country, in the Constitution, to take a human life. I don’t think that’s — I don’t think our founders envisioned that. I don’t think the writing of the Constitution anywhere enables that.
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