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How The Romney Campaign Has Helped Planned Parenthood

Election-season challenges to abortion rights (and the organization's future) have led to a surge in donations.

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Mitt Romney has promised to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood, but his campaign so far has had the opposite effect: The group says it's having a banner year in both donations and volunteers.

The organization has gained nearly two million new supporters in the last two years, said Dawn Laguens, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund's executive vice president for policy, advocacy, and communications. That number includes donors, volunteers, and people who have signed Planned Parenthood petitions, and the biggest gains began to come after the Susan G. Komen Foundation's controversial (and ultimately reversed) decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood in February.

The election has only accelerated these gains. Romney's platform assails the organization both directly, with a promise to defund it, and indirectly, with a pledge to end the contraceptive coverage mandate and support for overturning Roe v. Wade. Rep. Joe Walsh recently drew attention for claiming that abortion is never needed to save the life of a woman — "every time one of these guys opens their mouth," she says, "more and more people say they're completely out of touch on issues of women's health."

That's translated into more donors, and existing donors giving more money — the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization's advocacy arm, is in the midst of the most successful fundraising drive in its history. And, Laguens says, "we see it in everything we do. It's not just donations: every phone bank is backed, every canvas team is full." Another source within the Planned Parenthood Action Fund says its Twitter account gained 1,000 followers in the week between the vice presidential and second presidential debates.

That doesn't mean Planned Parenthood isn't worried about a Romney presidency. Surge in donations notwithstanding, Laguens says a successful defunding would mean Planned Parenthood couldn't possibly provide the various services it currently does. "Who gets elected here and what they believe in is going to make a difference to how many people are able to access health services," she explained.

But Laguens adds that actually defunding Planned Parenthood may not be as easy as Romney thinks. "The last time somebody tried to defund us," she says, referring to Republican efforts to block Planned Parenthood funding in 2011, "there was a really loud roar of people who said, 'no way.'"