Obama condemns 'assault on women's rights' in Planned Parenthood speech
President accuses US lawmakers of trying to 'turn back the clock to the 1950s' in attempt to limit abortion rights for women
Dan Roberts in Washington; guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 April 2013 15.55 EDTt
President Obama has accused US lawmakers of wanting to "turn back the clock to the 1950s" as he launched a spirited defence of abortion services currently under attack in several states and Congress.
Speaking at a national conference held by clinic operator Planned Parenthood, he described recent legislation in 42 states banning or severely limiting the right to choose a termination as an "assault on women's rights".
In unusually blunt language, Obama also said politicians were trying to turn Planned Parenthood "into a punching bag" by attempting to withdraw its federal funding.
"After decades of progress, there's still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century," he said. "And they've been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women's health."
The White House has previously tried to avoid being dragged in to the bitter debate on abortion rights, particularly at the state level, but the growing legislative backlash has sparked a renewed effort to shore up support among Democrats.
"Forty years after the supreme court affirmed a woman's constitutional right to privacy, including the right to choose, we shouldn't have to remind people that when it comes to a woman's health, no politician should get to decide what's best for you," added Obama.
The president took the stage to a standing ovation from a crowd of about 1,000 mainly women attendees and was introduced by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who remarked that he was the first sitting president to ever address a Planned Parenthood group.
"Because of President Obama, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in America," she added.
Obama concluded by telling the crowd: "Every day, in every state, in every centre that Planned Parenthood operates, there are … lives you've saved, women you've empowered, families that you've strengthened. That's why, no matter how great the challenge, no matter how fierce the opposition, if there's one thing the past few years have shown, it's that Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere."