June 9, 2011 — Groups for and against government funding for Planned Parenthood are gearing up for continued battles over the issue leading up to the 2012 elections, Politico reports. According to Politico, Planned Parenthood funding is expected to be "the key reproductive health issue" in 2012.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the antiabortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List, said, "This is our No. 1 policy focus, ... and we're treating it as a litmus test." She added, "If any Republican nominee can't summon the courage to call for Planned Parenthood to be defunded, that's a serious problem." The group has been gathering statements from GOP presidential contenders on the issue, and it plans to spend $1 million on campaigns against Planned Parenthood, largely in congressional races in Missouri, Nebraska and West Virginia.
Planned Parenthood and some Republican strategists said SBA's strategy is misguided. Polls show the vast majority of the public supports increased access to the contraceptive services Planned Parenthood provides.
"It would send a terrible message to independent voters the GOP needs in order to win," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist at Public Strategies who previously advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "Federal policy already restricts use of Planned Parenthood funds for abortions, so if GOP candidates push this issue, [they] would be perceived as tone deaf and intolerant to important electoral constituencies."
Dawn Laguens -- executive vice president of public policy and communications at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund -- said, "It's a bad litmus test for Republicans since it is unpopular with the majority of voters, and especially unpopular with key voters, including women and young voters." She added, "Opposing Planned Parenthood also poses a problem for them in the general election, since independent and swing voters support Planned Parenthood."
This spring, congressional budget negotiations came down to the wire as Republicans pushed to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood and Democrats fought the effort. The issue also is playing out on the state level, most notably in Indiana, where a new law bars grants and contracts to organizations that provide abortions -- specifically, those affiliated with Planned Parenthood. CMS Administrator Donald Berwick has warned Indiana that it could lose federal Medicaid funding if it moves forward with the law (Kliff, Politico, 6/8).