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Planned Parenthood sues Arizona for cut funding

Planned Parenthood sued the state of Arizona Monday in an effort to overturn a law that blocks funding for its health clinics because the organization also performs abortions. The new law is part of a national campaign against Planned Parenthood orchestrated by conservatives.

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Romney is fighting an uphill battle to win the votes of white women, and if Planned Parenthood and others succeed in convincing women that abortion rights are threatened, he said, some voters could turn out who otherwise would not vote.

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"He's much better off if economic issues are highlighted rather than social issues," Jones said.

Planned Parenthood and its supporters say the latest assault threatens to leave low-income people without access to cancer screenings and birth control. It is fighting back by raising money, beefing up its legal team and campaigning against state and federal candidates such as Romney.

STATE-BY-STATE STRATEGY

The Arizona law challenged by Planned Parenthood on Monday could mean that almost 3,000 Medicaid patients receiving birth control and other preventive care at Planned Parenthood will no longer be eligible, said Howard of Planned Parenthood Arizona, who is a Republican.

The lawsuit comes less than a week after the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union in Phoenix filed a lawsuit challenging another Arizona law that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The 20-week limit is based on controversial research suggesting a fetus feels pain by that stage of development.

Anti-abortion advocates have long wanted to target Planned Parenthood, but until recently it was not politically feasible, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington, D.C., group that works to elect anti-abortion candidates.

"No one wanted to be perceived as being against family planning," said Dannenfelser, who said her group co-wrote model state legislation that was the basis for the Arizona law. "Any effort to defund (Planned Parenthood) was doomed to fail."

That changed in 2010, after anti-abortion Republicans swept federal and state elections. Richards said Planned Parenthood's state and federal battles stem from a proposal by U.S. Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who last year spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to strip funding for Planned Parenthood from the federal budget. Pence is the Republican nominee for governor of Indiana in the November election.

Pence's proposal followed the release of videos by an anti-abortion group that showed Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to help underage prostitutes get abortions. Planned Parenthood has said the videos were deceptively edited but that it would retrain its staff.

Pence's campaign made it politically acceptable to attack Planned Parenthood, Dannenfelser said.

"There was a low rumbling that got louder, there was a tipping point, and now there is great momentum," she said.

There is momentum on Planned Parenthood's side, too.

In the past year it has gained more than 1.5 million supporters, financial and otherwise, Richards said.

At the end of May, Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced its endorsement of Obama and said it would spend more than $1.4 million on an anti-Romney ad campaign.

"We're going to make sure every woman in America knows where candidates stand," Richards said. "What we have seen consistently is that when a politician says they're going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, women don't support them."

During the 2010 election, Planned Parenthood political and advocacy organizations spent more than $900,000 on federal elections, mostly through ads benefiting Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Anti-abortion groups vow to keep the pressure on Planned Parenthood by scouring state budgets to identify and try to eliminate tax dollars for the group.

"We're making sure that we've found all the money, and we'll take it away if there's any left," said Texas Right to Life director Graham. (Aditional reporting by David Schwartz; editing by Greg McCune, Lee Aitken and Douglas Royalty)

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