In the 1990s the group created a political action fund to support candidates who backed family planning issues, and over the past decade political giving by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has increasingly tilted Democrat.
In the last election cycle, all but $2,000 of the $346,846 that the Planned Parenthood Action Fund contributed to candidates and political parties was given to Democrats.
The organization first waded into presidential politics in 2004, when it threw its support behind Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Republican George W. Bush, an abortion opponent. The group also endorsed Barack Obama when he ran for president against Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008.
Feldt said the organization has been increasingly forced to rely on Democrats for support in Congress as the number of socially moderate Republican allies dwindled or became more fearful of primary challenges.
In February only seven GOP House members voted against an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“There has always been a real attempt to remain nonpartisan,” Feldt said. “But it has become harder and harder to find pro-choice Republicans.”
But Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the Family Research Council Action fund, a socially conservative group, said that by shifting its giving to mostly Democrats, Planned Parenthood has contributed to the defeat of possible Republican allies.
“They got greedy,” he said.
McClusky said that Planned Parenthood is viewed by Republicans as part of the liberal coalition that includes teachers unions and other progressive groups that push for Democratic programs, such as the health care overhaul approved last year.
Social conservatives point to the growing legal and political activity by Planned Parenthood as a key reason the group has become more of a partisan target.
“Planned Parenthood’s mission and political activity has changed significantly,” said Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that supported Republican efforts to eliminate funds for Planned Parenthood.
He said Planned Parenthood’s reputation has been sullied by the recent scandal in which an anti-abortion group, Live Action, made an undercover video of a clinic manager advising someone disguised as a sex trafficker asking about care for under-aged prostitutes.
Some conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, have also attacked the philosophy of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger, an early birth control advocate who they say embraced the eugenics movement in the early part of the last century.
Herman Cain, an African-American conservative businessman who has indicated interest in running for president, recently accused Sanger of setting up birth control clinics in black neighborhoods, “so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world.” This assertion, however, has been debunked by the fact-checking group PolitiFact in Georgia.
Even though Democrats rebuffed Republicans’ effort to cut Planned Parenthood funding in the recent budget deal — instead, Republicans are getting a separate vote on the Planned Parenthood funding — Forsythe said the group’s critics haven’t given up.