By Dustin Hurst ǀ Watchdog.org
Tester typically has deployed positive television spots that seek to build up his wholesome farmer image, while outside groups have attacked his competitor, GOP U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg.
But no more.
In his ad released Tuesday, Lisa Jackson, a breast cancer survivor and apparent Tester surrogate, slammed Rehberg for voting against breast cancer screening funds.
The ad plays up Tester’s narrative that Rehberg plays an active role in the GOP’s supposed “War on Women.” The first-term Democrat has emphasized his support of women and even established a Women for Tester group.
The spot won’t win over any pro-life activists and voters, however.
While Rehberg technically voted against some breast cancer screening funds, he primarily supported ending taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides affordable reproductive health services for women, including abortions, and a longtime burr in the GOP saddle.
Tester uses Rehberg’s Feb. 19, 2011, vote for a Department of Defense budget to justify his claim. House members passed the 235-189, with only Republicans supporting it.
An amendment to the larger budget measure, however, has drawn Democratic ire.
Indiana Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pence proposed a bill alteration to ensure that Planned Parenthood wouldn’t receive federal Title X funding, which is used typically for reproductive health services. Pence argued that the organization uses some of its federal largess to fund abortions.
Planned Parenthood condemned the amendment, saying it’s “radically out of step with mainstream American values.” It also denied using the targeted federal funds for abortions.
Critics argued that in addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood provides easily accessible health checkups and — as Lisa Jones noted — cancer screenings.
Some 240 House members, Rehberg and 10 Democrats included, supported adding the amendment language. The U.S. Senate never addressed the budget.
Planned Parenthood has supported Tester in two elections. This election cycle, the group pitched in $5,000 to keep Tester in office. The group donated $5,000 in Tester’s 2006 defeat Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.
Planned Parenthood even deployed its president, Cecile Richards, to campaign on Tester’s behalf in April.
At stops along the trail, including one at Montana State University in Bozeman, Richards said Tester supports women’s issues, while Rehberg votes against them.
“Sen. Tester has been an incredible champion for women’s access to basic preventative care,” Richards told KXLH. “Unfortunately, Mr. Rehberg voted to not only get rid of Planned Parenthood, but also to end birth control access for millions of Americans.”
The group’s most recent annual report shows it received more than $487 million in government grants and contracts from July 2009 until June 30, 2010.