For the first time in the 100-year history of Planned Parenthood, the organization's leaders are publicly backing a primary presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton, who accepted the endorsement Sunday in New Hampshire. She is locked in a perceived tight race with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in that Democratic primary race state and in Iowa. Planned Parenthood's nod to Clinton came just hours after GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Hillary is married to "an abuser."
"As your president, I will always have your back," Clinton told Planned Parenthood supporters.
"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."
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told 500-plus attendees at the Hooksett, NH, rally that Clinton deserved the group's backing because "Clinton is a long-standing champion of women's health and women's rights and not just Planned Parenthood: equal pay, access to birth control, access to safe and legal abortion," Richards told Time.
"We need a president who understands that the gender pay gap holds ALL Americans back. That's what we're fighting for in 2016," stated Planned Parenthood on its Facebook page Sunday.
Leading Republican presidential candidates Trump and Ted Cruz have stated they intend to push to defund Planned Parenthood, if they were elected to the next presidency. Senator Cruz has been a fierce opponent of Planned Parenthood and has consistently vowed to defund the nonprofit. In fact, 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.
Planned Parenthood is a large provider of abortions, cancer screenings and reproductive health services, and has become a lightning rod in the 2016 presidential campaign, reports Associated Press. Although the group's abortions are not government-funded, a measure passed the Republican-led House to stop the flow of money to the nonprofit.
Richards said the group plans to spend at least $20 million during the 2016 campaign to remind voters about the Republican candidates' "extreme" positions on abortion rights and women's health, reports U.S. News.
"We don't need just a friend, a solid vote, a supporting statement - we need a fighter," Richards said.
However, the visitor's section of the Planned Parenthood Facebook Action page now also contains messages from Sanders' supporters and disappointed voters. Karen Anijar-Appleton on Monday afternoon posted: "I am happy you endorse Hillary. I suppose then you won't mind if we do not send our dollars to Planned Parenthood but find groups (perhaps locally) concerned with the health of women that actually do care for and about women and not about nepotism and/or faux progress which is nothing more than progress for Wall Street.
"Sorry, those of us who are the great unwashed masses deserve better than a group endorsing before the primary. Particularly when Sanders has just as good if not a better stance on women's issues. Not another dime. I should have known better with all that pink which is so Susan B. Komen."
"Nepotism" charges are being fired due to Lily Adams, daughter of Planned Parenthood's Richards, being Clinton's Iowa communications director. Adams, 28, also is the granddaughter of the late, former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
In a Planned Parenthood blog from Jan. 8, author Miriam Berg stated both Sanders and Clinton are rated 100 percent on the group's Action Fund's congressional scorecard for their perfect voting records on women's health and rights, and have been strong defenders of Planned Parenthood. The blog goes on to share their records side-by-side, indicating there's no question Clinton "demonstrated the strongest record, clearest leadership and most focused commitment to women's health of any presidential candidate."
The blog also explained the Clinton endorsement "was not made in a vacuum," but rather reflected months of research, input from an interview team of policy experts, and comments from grassroots supporters of the organization.
Questions and backlash about this endorsement in the last 24 hours are coming from misunderstandings of the differences between the group's service arm, the advocacy arm, and a third sub-group, Planned Parenthood's federal political action committee, said Elizabeth Boris, director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at The Urban Institute, reports The Christian Science Monitor.