BOSTON, March 1 (UPI) -- Mitt Romney waded into controversy when he told an Ohio network he opposed a contraception "conscience" proposal in the U.S. Senate then corrected himself.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would allow employers to opt out of healthcare coverage with which they disagree on moral grounds. It is the Senate Republicans response to the controversy over a recent Obama administration directive on the type of healthcare coverage employers, including religious institutions, must provide.
Romney told the Ohio News Network Wednesday he's "not for the bill," distancing himself and the social conservatism of rival Rick Santorum, The New York Times reported.
Romney and his aides scrambled to correct his remarks, saying he strongly supports the amendment but misunderstood the question.
Romney called in to a conservative Boston radio show and said, "Of course, I support the Blunt amendment." He said he thought the ONN reporter was discussing "some state law that prevented people from getting contraception."
Tony Perkins, president of the evangelical Family Research Council, said he was surprised the Romney hasn't jumped on the issue as a threat to religious freedom, the Times said.
"When he talked about the issue as being a matter of contraception between husband and wife -- that's not what the issue today is about," Perkins said. "Either he's so focused on going after Santorum, or he's been asleep for the last month."
Last month, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued an interim rule mandating health insurance plans for all employers, including religiously affiliated institutions, include coverage for birth control, sterilization and other preventive services, raising the hackles of Catholic church leaders and members of the Republican Party.
In response to the uproar, Obama later announced a modification to the rule, saying women will have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, but if a woman's employer objects to birth control for religious reasons, then the insurance company will be required to offer the woman contraceptive care directly.