Planned Parenthood is swinging behind Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race, but the women's healthcare provider says that won't mean negative campaigning against her primary opponents.
The endorsement by the group's political arm marks Planned Parenthood's first time wading into a presidential primary, and it comes as Clinton remains locked in a tight contest with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire, home of the first two nominating contests. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley trails both rivals in the race.
"Based on her record and extraordinary support that she's given to our issues, people felt very strongly that she's the candidate," the group's president, Cecile Richards, said Sunday. "There is nothing about this endorsement that should reflect badly on Senator Sanders or Governor O'Malley."
Planned Parenthood is a large provider of abortion and reproductive health services and has become a lightning rod in the 2016 campaign. Most Republican presidential candidates object to continued federal financing of the organization and a measure has passed the Republican-led House to stop the flow of money.
Richards said the group is making an early endorsement so that it can begin reminding voters about the Republican candidates' "extreme" positions on abortion rights and women's health. The group plans to spend at least $20 million in the 2016 campaign.
"I don't know that it has been particularly clear in the Republican primary just exactly how extreme these candidates are," Richards said.
In contrast, she said, Clinton has long fought for women's rights and to protect women's access to birth control, safe and legal abortion and other reproductive health services.
Many Republicans stepped up their criticism of Planned Parenthood after anti-abortion activists released underground video that showed an official from the group talking about the price of fetal parts. The video did not establish that the group was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal parts as some alleged.