By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An influential conservative group is calling on Republican presidential candidates to vow they will veto any future funding for women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, which is under fire from abortion opponents.
In a letter seen by Reuters that is being sent to all party hopefuls in the 2016 White House race, the ForAmerica advocacy group asks candidates to make "a firm commitment" to starve Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell - who has personally endorsed Republican Senator Ted Cruz for 2016 - also calls on the candidates to say whether they would launch an investigation by the Department of Justice into Planned Parenthood.
ForAmerica boasts a 7.7 million-member online presence, which in the past it has mobilized to bombard Republican congressional leadership with phone calls and emails to promote conservative positions.
Republicans have turned their sights on Planned Parenthood again since an anti-abortion group began posting a series of secretly recorded videos online. The center says the tapes show
Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal sales of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood counters that the videos were distorted and says that it did nothing wrong.
The effort by ForAmerica comes as a fight is brewing in Congress over Planned Parenthood that risks another government shutdown.
Cruz is threatening to block a spending bill if Planned Parenthood is not barred from receiving the $500 million in government funds it gets every year.
Having the rest of the 2016 Republican field on board would give Cruz more ammunition to push his fight against Planned Parenthood, even though the Republican leadership in Congress is wary of engaging in another high-profile battle that could fuel criticism their party is anti-women.
“We need a firm commitment from you so that voters may identify you as a pro-life man of your word, and expose fellow candidates who are giving lip service to this issue but intend to put this on the backburner if elected,” Bozell writes in the letter addressed to front-runner Donald Trump.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Andrew Hay)