LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH, 1:   Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Kentucky International Convention Center March 1, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. Trump is campaigning nationwide on Super Tuesday, the single largest primary voting day. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Donald Trump's Super Tuesday press conference
30:46 - Source: CNN

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Trump: "Millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood"

Maintains pledge to defund the organization if it continues offer abortion services

CNN  — 

Donald Trump on Tuesday night once again sought to strike a softer tone on Planned Parenthood, paying tribute to its “very good work for millions of women” while also keeping up a threat to cut off federal funding to the organization if it continues to offer abortion services.

With Super Tuesday victories in his back pocket, Trump at a press conference in South Florida pledged to expand the base of the Republican Party, calling himself a “common sense conservative” while assuring voters he considered women’s health issues “very important.”

“Planned Parenthood has done very good work for millions of women,” he said. “But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood. We understand that, and I’ve said it loud and clear.”

“We’ll see what happens,” he continued, “but I’ve had thousands of letters from women that have been helped. This wasn’t a set-up, this was people writing letters.”

Of his tack on Planned Parenthood, Trump conceded it was “not a perfect conservative view,” but offered a counterweight by promising to be “more conservative than anybody on the military, on taking care of our vets, on the border, on the wall.”

Trump’s comments Tuesday night echoed those he made less than a week earlier at the CNN Republican debate in Houston.

“As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life, I’m totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood,” the GOP front-runner said on Thursday. “But millions and millions of women – cervical cancer, breast cancer – are helped by Planned Parenthood. So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly.”

Trump’s Republican primary rivals have repeatedly questioned his anti-abortion credentials, often referencing a 1999 appearance on “Meet the Press” in which he described himself as “pro-choice in every respect.”

More recently, during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” in August, Trump raised eyebrows by saying he was “sure” Planned Parenthood did “some things properly and good and good for women, and I would look at that.”

Among the most vocal doubters has been Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who at his own Super Tuesday rally said Trump “supports Planned Parenthood.” By contrast, Cruz said, “I will direct the Justice Department to investigate” the organization.

Planned Parenthood itself also sought to undermine Trump’s message, dismissing any suggestion of a moderate turn and saying in a statement he had “built his presidential campaign on racism, misogyny and xenophobia.”

“Trump would ban abortion, and eliminate women’s ability to have birth control covered by health insurance,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in an email. “A Trump presidency would be a disaster for women.”