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16937 PlannedParenthoodMainPhoto Credit: lifenews.com

Battle lines are being drawn around Planned Parenthood in the early months of the 2016 presidential election. The government funded program, in addition to providing reproductive health care to millions of men and women, also provides abortions, drawing it to the center of the debate between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

It's been a point of contention in previous election cycles, but a controversial video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue has reignited the debate over the program's funding.

Republicans, usually falling on the pro-life side of the abortion debate, have tried using Planned Parenthood against their left-wing colleagues in the past. The 2012 Presidential election saw Mitt Romney go on the offensive, attacking the program as an unethical use of government funds and promising to defund it if elected president. 

Obama used Romney's position to wedge the gap between women and the Republican party, defending Planned Parenthood as an essential tool in leveling the playing field between men and women.

Obama ultimately succeeded in convincing Americans on the importance of Planned Parenthood and defeated Romney with a significant margin of female voters. 

Despite the loss and damaging effects of the gender gap within the political party, there hasn't been much change in the Republican tone over the past four years. They've doubled down on using Planned Parenthood and the services it provides to rally their conservative base. 

The videos that surfaced of Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell fetal tissue has given Republicans a politically legitimate claim against the program that expands beyond their moral reservations with what the program does. They were able to reenergize their voters and put defunding of Planned Parenthood back on the table. 

A hearing put on by Congressional members of the GOP to examine the ethics of the health care Planned Parenthood provides was intended to chastise the organization publicly.

The hearing failed to bring on the change in tone conservatives were looking for, as even opponents of Planned Parenthood expressed their disappointment in the GOP's inability to put together a legitimate hearing.  

The Democrats have responded by being careful not to lose ground on the discussion and have stuck up for Planned Parenthood, praising its merits and calling it an essential resource for family planning. 

Hillary Clinton took a strong stance against the GOP at the first Democratic National Debate in October, saying the Republicans have 'paralyzed' the American people when it comes to making progress in the national discussion. 

Although 55% of Americans support federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a CBS poll, the fight from the right to reduce funding continues. Texas announced in October that it would be cutting off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood as the organization fights a similar battle in the state of Louisiana. 

The fight for the future of Planned Parenthood is far from over. Its prominence in the early discussions about our next president indicate that it will play a huge role in how voters make up their minds as the 2016 election cycle heats up.

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