CHARLOTTE — You see them everywhere on the streets surrounding the Democratic National Convention here: legions of women sporting bright pink “Yes, We Plan” T-shirts, featuring an image of a pack of birth control pills.
It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that Planned Parenthood is here in a big, big way.
Once an area of political agreement among many members of both parties, Planned Parenthood has emerged as one of the defining partisan divides of the 2012 cycle. Both sides have aggressively courted the female vote. Republicans want to strip Planned Parenthood of all government support, reasoning that federal money is a government endorsement of abortion (though abortions represent a mere fraction of the group’s health services). Democrats and women’s health advocates say that eliminating the government dollars that go to the group as part of programs aimed at increasing access to birth control and breast cancer screenings will severely restrict preventative care for women, especially among the poor.
Mitt Romney has called for the elimination of federal funds to Planned Parenthood as part of his plan to balance the federal budget. President Obama has stood behind the group, and his campaign has used the difference between the two candidates in TV ads.
With the final run to the electoral finish line approaching, Planned Parenthood is backing Obama here in Charlotte. The group brought 1,000 of the “Yes We Plan” shirts to town and has distributed 600 so far. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, told TPM it signed up 1,600 new members on the first day of conventioneering in Charlotte alone.
On Tuesday afternoon, the group is holding a rally outside the convention featuring Sandra Fluke and Cory Booker, the culmination of the group’s “Women Are Watching … And Voting” national bus tour that logged 5,000 miles over the past month or so. Planned Parenthood was also on hand in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, where it held a rally with about 250 people. The group’s presence here in Charlotte already appears to be much larger than that.