After Taking on Komen, Planned Parenthood Aims Guns at Romney

By Mary Kate Cary

If you look at Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, amid the number of sexually transmitted disease tests it performed (3.5 million), number of women for whom it provided contraception (2.2 million), and the number of "breast exams/breast care" procedures (747,000; no mention of mammograms), you'll find these two facts:

  1. In 2010, Planned Parenthood performed over 329,000 abortions, which is about a third of all abortions in the United States. That same year, it gave 841 adoption referrals.
  2. The biggest percentage of its revenues-$487 million out of a $1.04 billion budget, or 46 percent of its revenues-comes from "government health services grants and reimbursements."

It's easy to see why some might question whether the largest abortion provider in the United States uses government funds to perform abortions. And it's easy to see why Planned Parenthood might feel threatened by that question.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

And it's easy to see what happens to those who ask it. A few months back, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation threatened to pull its funding of Planned Parenthood, the retaliation was swift and strong. Planned Parenthood supporters went on social media, congressional allies hit the airwaves, and anti-Komen protests were organized across the country. Planned Parenthood supporters alleged that Komen had given into political pressure by anti-abortion activists to sever ties with it. And although Komen reversed its decision, and even started quietly funding Planned Parenthood again, the damage isn't over. Last week, Talking Points Memo reported that participation is down dramatically at Race for the Cure events across the country, while Planned Parenthood has parlayed the controversy into millions of dollars and new members.

Mission Accomplished: Planned Parenthood 1, Komen 0.

And now this news: The Planned Parenthood Action Fund-which, according to its own press release is an "independent," "nonpartisan," not-for-profit organization last week endorsed President Barack Obama and launched an unprecedented $1.4 million ad campaign specifically targeted against former Gov. Mitt Romney in three swing markets. And there's more on the way: The Planned Parenthood Action Fund promises,

Planned Parenthood Action Fund is stepping up in 2012 to play a bigger role than it ever has before in the elections ... This is the first in a series of planned ads for the cycle that will hold Mitt Romney accountable for his out-of-touch and harmful views on women's health,

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the Violence Against Women Act Be Reauthorized?]

The ad is already running here in Washington, D.C. I've seen it and it seems very misleading and inflammatory to me-that's another blog-and the targeted, partisan nature of the ad certainly seems well over the line of a "nonpartisan" organization engaging in "legislative advocacy," "voter education," or "grassroots organizing," as the Action Fund describes itself. Planned Parenthood's own activities show us that the Komen fight was all about politics, and not at all about mammograms.

Clearly Planned Parenthood feels threatened. Gallup reported that the number of Americans who identify themselves as "prochoice" has hit a record low; the leadership of the organization knows they're becoming more and more marginalized with voters. The result? Planned Parenthood, an intensely political operation with a lot of money, is setting its sights on the next biggest threat out there-Mitt Romney.

There are several ways this could go as Planned Parenthood's campaign ramps up. Will Planned Parenthood's supporters recoil at the way it is lashing out and turning crassly partisan? Will Republican and independent voters see this for what it is, which is a desperate attempt at distracting voters? And finally, will Mitt Romney be able to weather the attack and stick to the real issue in this campaign, which is creating economic growth for all Americans? Or will the Romney campaign, like the Komen Foundation, not know what hit it?