President Barack Obama on Friday defended Planned Parenthood—the largest source of reproductive health care for women, as well as an abortion provider—against its opponents, and warned critics that the organization remains steadfast.
"Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere," Obama told the 1,000 people at the group's annual national conference in Washington. "It’s not going anywhere today. It’s not going anywhere tomorrow." He is the first president to address Planned Parenthood.
The organization has long been a target of abortion opponents, who in recent years have fought to cut off its federal funding—despite the fact that that money, by law, is not applicable toward abortions. (Abortions make up an estimated 3 percent of the organization's budget.)
The president on Friday lauded Planned Parenthood's work “providing quality health care to women all across America."
Obama added, "We are truly grateful to you.”
He noted that 1 in 5 women in America have sought services from Planned Parenthood, which is the primary source for health care for many women. When politicians attempt to turn it into "a punching bag," Obama said, they are shutting out women who need health care and communities that may need health care services the most.
"When it comes to a women's health, no politician should get to decide what's best for you," Obama said. "The only person who should get to make decisions about your health is you."
Obama used his appearance to champion his health care law, which he said promotes many of the same principles as Planned Parenthood. Obama said his law supports health care for women by allowing young women, for example, to be covered by their parents' health care insurance plans, and by preventing women with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage.
The president did not say the word "abortion" during his remarks, but did reference a woman's "right to choose."
He took aim at states that have introduced laws that would limit abortion rights, affect contraceptive care, and end access to certain cancer screenings and education programs related to teen pregnancy, specifically calling out North Dakota and Mississippi for abortion restriction laws.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus recently targeted the organization with a scathing op-ed for conservative news site Red State accusing Planned Parenthood and Democrats of supporting infanticide. Priebus wrote that testimony from a Planned Parenthood lobbyist in Florida indicated the organization supports the killing of infants.
Planned Parenthood later released a statement on the lobbyist's testimony, saying, "As a trusted health care provider, Planned Parenthood strongly condemns any physician who does not follow the law or endangers a woman's or child's health. And while HB 1129 addresses a situation that is extremely unlikely and highly unusual, if the scenario presented by the legislation should happen, of course a Planned Parenthood doctor would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant."
The president's appearance at the conference comes at a time when infanticide has been in the national news due to the murder trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell, of Philadelphia, is charged with murder in the death of a woman in 2009 during an abortion procedure and in the deaths of four babies.