After sweeping seven states on Super Tuesday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump paid a compliment to the target of much conservative vitriol this election cycle: Planned Parenthood.
The organization has done “very good work for millions of women,” he said Tuesday night to a Palm Beach crowd. "I've had thousands of letters from women that have been helped.”
Trump has praised Planned Parenthood for providing birth control and paths to breast cancer screenings. But, he said, it should receive no federal dollars.
"We're not going to allow, and we're not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood,” Trump said. “We understand that, and I've said it loud and clear."
Trump told reporters he was pro-choice for years before changing his stance. His view on abortion now, based on recent interviews: The procedure should be provided only in cases of rape, incest and life-threatening pregnancies.
That’s where Trump’s Planned Parenthood message hits a logical snare. Under federal law, not a penny of government money can be used to cover abortion — except in cases of rape, incest and life-threatening pregnancies.
Planned Parenthood says it complies with that rule. It receives about $500 million annually from the government and would likely enter dire financial straits if that money dried up. Beyond birth control, the clinics also offer STD testing and treatment, sex education and preventative health care — the services Trump says he applauds.
“So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly,” he said Thursday at the GOP debate.
Regardless, he "would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is three percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s three percent,” Trump continued. “But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life.”
It’s unclear why Trump would find middle ground on such a contentious topic and repeatedly bring it up. Ultra-conservative supporters don’t want to hear any praise of Planned Parenthood, and his rivals use it against him.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, said Trump's Planned Parenthood stance is proof Trump can't be trusted to appoint a truly conservative Supreme Court justice. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) criticized Trump at his own Super Tuesday rally for supporting the organization and said he would direct the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood. (Of the 11 states that looked into the recent accusation that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue, none found evidence of wrongdoing.)
Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, swiftly questioned Trump’s motives.
“Donald Trump claimed he’d be great for women while in the same breath pledging to block them from accessing care at Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a Tuesday statement. “Trump was introduced by Chris Christie, who decimated women’s health care across New Jersey.”
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards echoed those thoughts on Twitter.
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