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Planned Parenthood chief to campaign 'full time' for Obama in final weeks

The head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, on Friday touted President Obama's record on women's issues and announced she will be campaigning for the president full time. 

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"Since day one, President Obama has stood with women. The very first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, allowing us to make sure that women get equal pay to men. And under the Affordable Care Act he's expanded healthcare coverage to millions of American women," says Richards in a Web video released Friday. 

Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said she's taking "break from her day job" to volunteer for the president's reelection effort.

She introduced Obama at a campaign event in Virginia on Friday. 

Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are waging an intense battle for support among women in the closing weeks of the campaign. Several polls have shown the GOP candidate's fortunes improving among women since the first presidential debate, on Oct. 3. Obama and Romney made direct appeals to women in their second debate on Tuesday night. 

In the campaign video, Richards says Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), want to "take women back" in time to a less progressive era. 

"[M]itt Romney ... is threatening not just to take us back four years, but more than 40 years. He said he'll do everything he can to overturn Roe v. Wade and, of course, he said that he's going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, an organization that serves three million patients every single year with affordable healthcare," she says.

The GOP nominee has said that he would eliminate federal funding to Planned Parenthood, as well as other programs, to help reduce the deficit. The Romney campaign released a TV ad earlier this week seeking to refute criticism of his abortion stance and reminding voters that he believes abortion should be an option in "cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life.”

Richards also focuses on energizing voters in Florida, a crucial swing state in the general election.

"As goes Florida goes, so goes the country, right?" she tells a group of apparent Obama supporters in the video.

The anti-abortion-rights group Live Action responded to the video, accusing Richards of trying to preserve funding for her organization and blasting Planned Parenthood as a threat to the "well-being of women."

"In a new video the Obama campaign released today, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards says she is taking a break from her 'day job' to help re-elect the President because our 'daughters and grand daughters' future depends on it.' At a taxpayer funded salary of almost $400,000 a year, Ms. Richards may be able to afford to take a few weeks off to help, but the President has embraced a partner whose radical abortion-first agenda repeatedly puts the health and well-being of women and young girls at risk," Live Action President Lilia Rose said in a statement.

The president has been attacking Romney's position towards Planned Parenthood and talking up his support of the fair pay act on the campaign trail in recent days.

"I also believe women should make their own healthcare decisions ... Gov. Romney says he’d end funding for Planned Parenthood, despite all the work it does to provide women with mammograms and breast cancer screenings," Obama said at a campaign event on Thursday in New Hampshire.

Planned Parenthood clinics provide only referrals for mammograms, and not the procedures themselves.

— This story was updated at 2:26 p.m.