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It's all about priorities

Mitt Romney caused a stir this week when he told the NBC affiliate in St. Louis that he would "get rid of" Planned Parenthood if he's elected president. The candidate and his campaign are now pushing the context of the comment.

"Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood," he told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. [...] His spokesperson, Eric Fehrnstrom, soon clarified that Romney did not mean to eliminate the organization altogether. "It would not be getting rid of the organization," Fehrnstrom said. "They have other sources of funding besides government appropriations, but in order to achieve balance, we have to make some tough decisions about spending."

In fairness, there's some truth to the explanation. When Romney said he intends to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, he was, in context, talking about federal funding.

But that doesn't make the pushback persuasive. For one thing, as a practical matter, if a Romney administration keeps its campaign promise and cuts off Planned Parenthood from all federal aid, it would very likely crush the health organization's ability to function.

For another, Romney prioritizing the elimination of Planned Parenthood support continues to be pretty ironic, since he's traditionally supported the group -- including having attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser during his Senate campaign.

But it's Fehrnstrom's point that warrants special scrutiny. As far as the campaign's spokesperson is concerned, Planned Parenthood needs to be cut off due entirely to "tough decisions about spending."

To borrow a line, that's bullpucky -- and it's important to understand why.

Planned Parenthood receives a fairly small amount of money from Congress, and eliminating every penny of the aid would barely scratch the surface when it comes to deficit reduction.

Indeed, the larger budgetary context is extraordinary. Mitt Romney wants to increase spending on defense by billions of dollars, and slash taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars. How would he pay for this? So far, Romney hasn't been willing to answer that.

But look again at the Romney campaign's line: "We have to make some tough decisions about spending." The Republican, who claims to be a "numbers guy," seriously seems to believe he can take a $1.1 trillion deficit, increase spending on the Pentagon without comparable offsets and cut taxes for the wealthy without comparable offsets, but still bring the budget close to balance by blocking women from accessing contraception, family planning services, pap smears, cancer screenings, and tests for sexually-transmitted diseases.

In his much-derided speech to an empty football stadium a few weeks ago, Romney said his plan "calls for sacrifice." He added, "It requires a leader ... to call for sacrifice."

Perhaps, but in this case, Romney doesn't want shared sacrifice. The only folks Romney wants to suffer are women who rely on Planned Parenthood -- defense contractors and the former governor's millionaire friends wouldn't have to sacrifice anything.