A screenshot of Planned Parenthood's first ad in its $1.4-million… (Planned Parenthood )
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund began a $1.4-million ad campaign Wednesday attacking Mitt Romney as “just wrong for women,” injecting the abortion rights issue into a presidential campaign that has been heavily focused on the economy.
The TV commercial is aimed at three swing markets — West Palm Beach, Fla.; Des Moines, Iowa; and northern Virginia, along with Washington, D.C. — and the launch coincided with the organization’s endorsement of President Obama's reelection bid.
The endorsement was certainly no surprise, given the sharp differences between the candidates on abortion and government-mandated contraception coverage. And there may be a degree of payback, since Romney has said that, as president, he would eliminate government funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.
“There is no greater champion for women’s health than President Obama, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund couldn’t be prouder to endorse his reelection as president today,” said Cecile Richards, president of the fund, which is the advocacy and political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation. “The contrast with Mitt Romney couldn’t be starker. Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to ensuring that voters know how wrong Mitt Romney is for women — in his own words.”
The ad attempts to do just that, featuring video clips of Romney saying he would eliminate Planned Parenthood funding; that he believes the Supreme Court should overturn Roe vs. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion; and that he has been noncommittal on equal pay protections for women.
In response, Romney campaign spokesman Rick Gorka issued a statement: “Once again President Obama is resorting to scare tactics in a futile attempt to distract voters from his abysmal economic record. President Obama has failed to meet his own goals to create jobs and to lower the unemployment rate to 6%, and with 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, it’s not surprising the president isn’t campaigning on his record.”
Earlier in his political career, Romney was pro-choice, but as governor of Massachusetts he said he believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. He has also said he believes that life begins at conception, and that federal funds should not be used to pay for abortions.
Obama has generally supported legalized abortion, although he disappointed pro-choice advocates in 2010 when he signed an executive order affirming a ban on federal funding for most abortions. He angered some religious groups this year, most prominently the Catholic Church, by mandating that private employers pay for contraception services for their employees.
None of this is likely to play a prominent role in the presidential election.
Poll after poll has shown that voters are focused on jobs and the economy, with social issues well down their list of concerns. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 52% listed the economy as the most important issue in their choice for president; just 1% listed abortion.
Still, in a close race, any issue could play a decisive role. And while the public is sharply divided on abortion, independent voters — the votes that will decide the election — tend to support abortion rights.
[Updated, 6:05 p.m., May 30: This post now has a response from the Romney campaign.]