Women's health care provider Planned Parenthood is endorsing Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race but says that won’t mean negative campaigning against her opponents in the primaries.
The endorsement by the group’s political arm is Planned Parenthood’s first time wading into a presidential primary, and it comes as Clinton remains locked in a tight contest with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first caucus and primary states. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley trails both rivals in the race.
Accepting the endorsement Sunday in New Hampshire, Clinton sought to energize her Democratic base with a passionate pledge to always protect reproductive rights. And she painted a dark picture of what women’s health care would look like under a Republican president, singling out two of the top Republican contenders.
“Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and their powerful friends may be trying to drag us back to the Stone Age, but we’ve got our sights set on the future,” she said.
Trump said last year that he agreed “the abortion aspect” of Planned Parenthood should not receive government funding but did not necessarily support defunding the entire organization.
Cruz led a series of conference calls with pastors across the country to mobilize churchgoers in the fight to cut taxpayer funding to the group.
Clinton warned the crowd that electing a Republican president would eliminate Democrats' firewall between a repeal of the president’s signature health care overhaul law, Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and the appointment of “right wing” justices to the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood is a large provider of abortion and reproductive health services and has become a lightning rod in the 2016 campaign. Most Republican presidential candidates object to continued federal financing of the organization.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said the group is making an early endorsement so that it can begin reminding voters about the Republican candidates’ “extreme” positions on abortion rights and women’s health. The group plans to spend at least $20 million in the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t know that it has been particularly clear in the Republican primary just exactly how extreme these candidates are,” she said.
Although Planned Parenthood doesn’t plan to campaign against Sanders and O’Malley, Richards highlighted Clinton’s long record of supporting women’s health care, from her time at the Children’s Defense Fund to tenure as first lady and a U.S. senator from New York.
“We don’t need just a friend, a solid vote, a supporting statement. We need a fighter,” Richards said.
Many Republicans stepped up their criticism of Planned Parenthood after anti-abortion activists released underground video that showed employees discussing the use of fetal tissue for medical research, which anti-abortion activists said was proof that it was harvesting fetal organs for profit. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are doctored and that the conversations are misrepresented, but many Republican lawmakers want to revoke the group’s federal funding.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush drew anger from women’s health advocates when he said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” and claimed the group “is not actually doing women’s health issues.”
Last year neurosurgeon Ben Carson told Fox News that “one of the reasons that you find most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can find ways to control that population.” Planned Parenthood has said Carson is “wrong on the facts” and “flat-out insulting” and that Margaret Sanger’s belief in eugenics was concerned with women’s right to choose when and whether to have a child.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press