By Elise Viebeck - 06/05/12 10:40 PM EDT
Planned Parenthood attacked presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on women's health issues Tuesday as he visited Texas, a state embroiled in a court battle with the group.
Texas's dispute began when conservative officials barred public health funds for all of the state's Planned Parenthood clinics, whether they provide abortions or not.
"What has happened to women’s health services in Texas has devastating consequences for women — and Mitt Romney wants to do it in all 50 states," Richards said in a statement.
"What he doesn’t seem to realize is that women are watching and will be voting come November."
Richards is also president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The group's clinics provide healthcare services such as birth control and cancer screenings to 50,000 women in Texas, according to a release.
The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As women's health debates remain in the headlines, so do Romney's views on issues like abortion.
The former Massachusetts governor has said he would "get rid" of Planned Parenthood as president and that he opposes the Obama administration's rule that insurance plans must cover birth control for women without a co-pay, arguing that it violates employers' religious freedom.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund recently endorsed Obama and launched a $1.4 million ad buy blasting Romney on women's health issues. The ads will run in West Palm Beach, Des Moines and Washington, D.C., in what is likely a bid to sway women in the key swing states of Florida, Iowa and Virginia.
"Mitt Romney consistently aligns himself with politicians like [Texas GOP Gov.] Rick Perry, who pursue policies that endanger women's health," Richards said Tuesday. "What Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to understand is that women’s health care is an economic issue for women."
The group rarely gets involved in presidential campaigns but has become increasingly active as Republicans seek to cut its public funds over abortion.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans will hear arguments Thursday in the Texas case.
The plaintiffs, Planned Parenthood clinics that do not provide abortions, argue that the rule punishes them for associating with segments of organization that do — thus violating the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of free association and equal protection under the law.
The complaint also noted that in 2011, a separate family-planning program in Texas was "cut by two thirds" — from $111.5 million in 2010-2011 to $37.9 million — in the two years that followed.
The state has threatened to shut down its Women's Health Program altogether if it is forced to give funds to Planned Parenthood, reports said.
In Fort Worth Tuesday, Romney focused on economic issues and courted Latino voters.
"This Obama economy has been hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic-Americans," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I can tell you that if I'm the next president of the United States, I'll be the president for all Americans and make sure this economy is good for all Americans, Hispanic and otherwise."
—Updated at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.