Mitt Romney, leading the polls in the Republican primary field in New Hampshire, came under attack yesterday from Planned Parenthood.
The organization that supports women's reproductive rights, including abortion, accused Romney of flip-flopping on a pro-choice stance he took as Massachusetts governor.
Planned Parenthood faulted Romney for wanting to cut federal funding of family planning. It also said he supported an amendment before Mississippi voters that would undermine the right to an abortion by defining a fertilized human egg as a person.
"Over the weekend, it became evident Mitt Romney is advancing positions far out of the mainstream on women's health," said Jennifer Frizzell of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, was critical of Romney for supporting the Mississippi proposal she said would outlaw common birth control measures such as the pill.
"This is an extreme measure," Bouchard said.
The concern for Planned Parenthood is that the proposal raised in Mississippi could be visited upon New Hampshire later.
Mary Rauh, a women's health advocate, said more women will be appalled as they learn the facts about Romney's positions.
The Romney campaign was unapologetic.
"Mitt Romney is pro life," spokesman Ryan Williams said yesterday. "Gov. Romney believes in the sanctity of life."
The GOP presidential contender does not believe federal tax dollars should support abortion or groups that provide abortion, Williams said.
Romney believes ballot questions like the one before Mississippi voters are for the states to decide, Williams said.
His opposition to funding for Planned Parenthood was highlighted in an opinion column published recently that focused on cutting federal spending.
"There are many things government does that we may like, but that we do not need," Romney wrote. "The test should be this: 'Is this program so critical that it is worth borrowing money to pay for it?'"
Romney then specifically cited family planning programs "benefitting abortion groups like Planned Parenthood."
While Romney was the focus of the teleconference with reporters, he wasn't the only Republican candidate criticized.
Frizzell said Rick Perry, governor of Texas, also had made extreme statements about women's reproductive rights.
"All the Republican candidates pose great threats to women's health," Frizzell said.
"They're all extreme," Rauh said.
A spokesman for Perry's campaign, Catherine Frazier, said Perry is pro life.
"Gov. Perry is very proud of his record to protect life," Frazier said. "It is a priority he will carry with him if he's elected president."
National Right to Life president Carol Tobias said Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest provider of abortions, supported by federal, state and local tax dollars, and grants.
"They are going to be opposed to any candidate who thinks tax dollars should be cut off," Tobias said.
All the Republicans concur taxpayer funding of abortion should be cut, Tobias said.
"We agree with that," she said.
Tobias said she doesn't think Planned Parenthood's criticism of the Republicans will hurt them.
"Tax dollars are in scarce reserve these days," she said.
Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, said it has started the Women Are Watching campaign to keep an eye on the presidential and congressional contests.
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