Obama to deliver keynote at Planned Parenthood annual gala

President Obama will deliver the keynote address at Planned Parenthood's annual gala Thursday, highlighting his close ties to a group that spent millions in support of his reelection campaign.

The speech follows a hard-fought election cycle in which women's health issues dominated several Senate campaigns and figured prominently in the race between Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The presidential contest produced a record-breaking gender gap of 20 points, with women favoring Obama by 12 points.

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In a statement Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards praised Obama for doing "more than any president in history for women's health and rights."

She added that her group, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will help the administration confront a major challenge of the president’s second term — the implementation of ObamaCare, his signature healthcare reform law.

"We fought alongside him to ensure that women's health access was expanded in the landmark Affordable Care Act, and now we have to fight hard to ensure that the full promise of healthcare reform is realized for millions of women," Richards said.

There has been speculation that Planned Parenthood volunteers will act as "navigators" under the new health law, helping consumers understand their benefits and shop for insurance in the new marketplaces.

Conservative groups have been skeptical of the possibility, saying it will allow liberal groups to sway consumers.

Planned Parenthood is frequently denounced on the right as a pillar of the U.S. "abortion industry," and lawmakers and activists alike have condemned Obama for his ties to the group.

An anti-abortion rights website criticized the president Monday for his plans to honor Planned Parenthood this week.

Life News also sought to tie Obama to the grisly murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, which is underway in Philadelphia.

Obama has reacted to the case by saying abortion should be, in the coinage of former President Clinton, "safe, legal and rare."

Thursday's dinner will take place in Washington, D.C.

The event will honor prominent sex therapist Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), and actress Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series “Girls.”

Dunham raised the ire of conservative groups ahead of the election by endorsing Obama in a video that compared voting to "your first time" having sex.