U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky criticized Mitt Romney for his stance on Planned Parenthood during a news conference Friday morning outside Pancakes Eggcetera in Rosemont where the Republican presidential front-runner was courting voters.
Surrounded by Planned Parenthood advocates, Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat representing the 9th District, said Romney has flip-flopped on women's health issues such as birth control, and he and other Republicans are rehashing an issue that was settled decades ago when contraception became legal in 1966.
"I really don't understand the political strategy because the majority of voters are women," said the veteran congresswoman. "Since 99 percent of women use contraceptives in their lifetime, it's quite remarkable that this has become the signature issue of many of the Republicans and I think that it may cost them the election because women are simply not going to go back. They are not going to accept restrictions on their access to health care or to contraception."
Schakowsky said Romney sought Planned Parenthood's endorsement in 2002 when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, and is only going back on his position now to appeal to far right-wing Republicans.
"He was completely pro-choice at one time," she said. "He was for women being able to choose to terminate a pregnancy under the rules of Roe v. Wade. Now, he says that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. And now, Mitt Romney wants to turn back the clock on women's health."
Romney and other Republican presidential hopefuls have opposed funding for Planned Parenthood because some money goes toward abortion services.
Planned Parenthood provides health care for 3 million women across Illinois, said Carol Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.
Yet, abortions are a small percentage of what the organization does, she added.
"Over 90 percent of what we perform are basic preventive health care services," Brite said. "We're talking about breast exams, life saving cervical cancer screenings, the testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. That is what Mitt Romney wants to get rid of."
Brite said her group would not endorse any of the Republican presidential candidates because of their conservative leanings.
"It's really a war on women's health," Brite said adding voters need to "stand up for women's health care."
Schakowsky is running for re-election in November and is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Simon Ribeiro of Evanston.