Democratic groups are pouncing on Mitt Romney for saying he would stop funding Planned Parenthood with dollars borrowed from China, accusing the Republican presidential front-runner of cutting preventive health care services to pay for millionaires' tax breaks.
Answering a question Tuesday about how he would cut the budget, Romney told a viewer of KSDK-TV in Kirkwood, Mo., that he would administer a test to see whether a program qualifies for federal funding.
"My test is pretty simple. Is the program so critical that it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for? And on that basis, of course you get rid of Obamacare. That's the easy one. But there are others. Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that. There's a subsidy for Amtrak. I would eliminate that. National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities. Both excellent programs but we just can't afford to borrow money to pay for those things," he said.
Shortly after the interview aired, the Democratic National Committee sprung into action, releasing a 30-second web video with Romney's quote, followed by foreboding music and a black screen with lettered warning: "Cutting preventive health services for millions of women to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires."
"Romney would cut Planned Parenthood's cancer screenings, birth control services, prenatal care for millionaire's and billionaires: tax cuts," reads the text of the ad.
The DNC paired the video with a release saying Romney would rather borrow trillions of dollars from China for tax breaks for the wealthy even though "0.01 percent" of the federal budget goes to Planned Parenthood.
Discussing the outcome of Tuesday's primaries, in which Rick Santorum won two big southern states but Romney still walked away with the most delegates, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz argued Romney says anything he can to win over the GOP.
"He did everything he could to pander to the far right wing of his party with extreme and out-of-touch positions like vowing to get rid of Planned Parenthood, as he did today," she said.
Conservatives, on the other hand, claimed Romney was supportive of Planned Parenthood in 2002, when he was running for governor of Massachusetts. At that time he filled out a questionnaire saying that he supported laws "that help prevent violence, intimidation and harassment directed at reproductive health providers and their patients." The question was framed in the context of Planned Parenthood at the time facing an organized effort to intimidate and harrass.
In the same questionnaire, Romney also said he would want to evaluate the cost of providing prescription drug coverage for contraception before supporting legislation requiring insurers to provide it .
Last month, Romney supported the decision of Susan G. Komen Foundation, later reversed, to end its funding of Planned Parenthood, which is the target of a federal inquiry on the use of its funding. Romney also supported the "Blunt Amendment," legislation that failed in the Democratic-led Senate that would permit employers a moral exemption to opt out of paying for contraception that ran against their personal beliefs.
According to a Bloomberg poll out Wednesday, 62 percent of respondents said the controversy over whether education and health care facilities affiliated with religious organizations should provide access to birth control through their insurance plans is a matter of a woman's health and access while 33 percent called it a matter of religious liberty. In the same poll, 77 percent said the issue shouldn't rise to a national discussion.
A CBS/New York Times poll out Tuesday showed nationally 51 percent of voters say employers should be allowed to opt out of covering birth control based on religious or moral objections. That's compared to 40 who say it should be covered. The poll taken March 7-11 also found that 57 percent believe religiously affiliated employers should be allowed to opt out compared to 36 percent who say they should be required to cover birth control.
About the debate in general, 51 percent said it was a women's rights and health issue compared to 37 percent who said it's a matter of religious freedom.
Dawn Laguens, vice president for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said Romney's position is "dangerous and out of step with what most Americans want."
"Mitt Romney simply can’t be trusted when it comes to women’s health. He supports so-called 'personhood' laws, opposes making birth control affordable and accessible, and wants to undermine women's health care," she said.
"Romney has said repeatedly he wants to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortion services," the DNC noted.