The president of Planned Parenthood blasted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Wednesday, a day after the former Massachusetts governor said he would “get rid” of the federally funded program.
“Really what that means,” Cecile Richards said, “is he wants to get rid of preventive health care for three million folks every year who come to Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care, for cancer screenings, for birth control.”
Richards spoke to reporters on a conference call, along with Democratic House members Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley of Illinois. The trio responded harshly to a statement Romney made while campaigning Tuesday in Kirkwood, Mo. Romney was explaining how he would decide which items to cut from the federal budget.
“The test is pretty simple,” he said. “Is the program so critical, it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And on that basis, of course you get rid of Obamacare; that’s the easy one. Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that. The subsidy for Amtrak, I’d eliminate that. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.”
Schakowsky acknowledged that Romney, if elected president, would not actually have the authority to end the Planned Parenthood program.
“I think if Mitt Romney could get rid of Planned Parenthood, he absolutely would do that,” she said. “The most he could do, the best he can do, is get rid of the federal funding, which will have a significant effect on the women in this country, in terms of getting their cancer screenings and other preventive services, not just contraceptive services.”
Social conservatives object to the government’s funding of a program that performs about 330,000 abortions per year — and which offers a range of contraceptives, including the morning-after pill — though federal dollars are not used to pay for abortions.
Richards stressed Planned Parenthood’s other services, saying the program also performed 4 million STD tests and treatments, and 750,000 breast exams last year.
She characterized Romney’s words as an attack on women, but Quigley implored voters not to view reproductive health debates as battles of the sexes.
“It shouldn’t be perceived that this is only a woman’s issue,” Quigley said. “A man who loves his spouse or his significant other wants her to have good health care.”
Romney has expressed disdain for Planned Parenthood before. In an op-ed that ran in USA Today in November, he wrote that he would “eliminate Title X family planning programs benefiting abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.” His phrasing on Tuesday, however, raised the ire of the program’s supporters.
Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com.