WASHINGTON — President Obama waded back into the nation’s volatile culture wars on Friday as he assailed conservatives who have sought to restrict access to abortion and contraception, and he promised women’s activists he would stand with them ‘‘fighting every step of the way.’’
Addressing a meeting of Planned Parenthood, Obama singled out lawmakers in North Dakota, Mississippi and, by implication, the nation’s capital for proposing and in some cases enacting ‘‘absurd’’ laws that he said would return the country to the days before the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights.
“When you read about some of these laws, you want to check the calendar,’’ Obama said. ‘‘You want to make sure you’re still living in 2013.’’
Obama was originally scheduled to address the group Thursday but had to postpone his appearance to attend a memorial service in Texas for firefighters killed in a fertilizer plant explosion. Rather than pass off the obligation to another member of his administration, Obama asked the group to let him come a day late so he could speak out on an issue that galvanizes his political base.
The president’s speech came at a time when several states have passed restrictive new abortion laws, and not long after a furor in Congress in which some Republicans objected to administration policies intended to ensure that insurance companies cover contraception.
Abortion opponents have also drawn attention lately to the trial of a Philadelphia doctor charged with killing viable fetuses during abortions. Three of seven murder charges against the doctor, Kermit Gosnell, were thrown out by a judge this week, but the grisly details of the case have, in the view of abortion opponents, highlighted the moral questions underlying abortion in the United States.
An antiabortion group said a local Planned Parenthood group had been aware of complaints about Gosnell but did not intervene. The Philadelphia Daily News quoted the local group’s leader as saying that women had complained to the group about conditions at Gosnell’s clinic, and that the group would encourage them to report their complaints to the health department.
“President Obama blatantly ignored this inconvenient truth about the abortion industry’s horrific lack of oversight and disparaged the pro-life advocates who wake up each morning with the goal of saving the lives of unborn children, and women from the pain of abortion,’’ said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group.
Obama did not mention the case but condemned lawmakers who have targeted Planned Parenthood.
“When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they’re not just talking about you, they’re talking about the millions of women who you serve,’’ he told the group’s gathering, at a Washington hotel. ‘‘And when they talk about cutting off your funding, let’s be clear they’re talking about telling many of those women you’re on your own.’’
He pledged his loyalty to the group.
“You’ve also got a president,’’ he said, ‘‘who’s going to be right here with you fighting every step of the way.’’