Rolling out a new line of defense of his flip flop on abortion rights, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday that conservative icon Ronald Reagan underwent a similar ideological transformation on the issue.

At a town hall meeting at Western Michigan University, a woman in the audience asked Romney why “we should regard you as a man of high standards and integrity when you have flip flopped on your position regarding the sanctity of life?” Romney replied that Reagan was “pro-choice before he became pro-life,” and named other Republican figures who he said had similar experiences on the issue, including former President George H.W. Bush and the late former Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, who went on to become a leader in the effort to stop the expansion of abortion rights in Congress.

“We need people who recognize that pro-life is the way to go, and we’re getting more and more people joining our cause as time goes on,” Romney said.

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