03/15/2012 10:48 am ET

Mitt Romney Clarifies Planned Parenthood Comments

Mitt Romney is walking back the comments he made about wanting to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, saying Wednesday that he just wants to strip the organization of federal funds.

"Planned Parenthood is a private organization. What I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood," he told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Romney started a firestorm Tuesday when he told KSDK.com about his plans to do away with the reproductive health care provider.

"Of course you get rid of Obamacare, that's the easy one, but there are others," he said. "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that."

His spokesperson, Eric Fehrnstrom, soon clarified that Romney did not mean to eliminate the organization altogether.

"It would not be getting rid of the organization," Fehrnstrom said. "They have other sources of funding besides government appropriations, but in order to achieve balance, we have to make some tough decisions about spending."

The distinction is basically meaningless. Cutting off federal funding would cripple the organization, as the federal government covers 90 percent of the $40 million it costs annually to run.

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards fired back at Romney's remarks. HuffPost's Laura Bassett reports:

"I was really stunned to read that Mitt Romney has now said he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood, because really what that means is he wants to get rid of preventative health care for 3 million folks every year," Richards told reporters on Wednesday.

"It shows an extraordinary lack of understanding of family planning and the budget to say one of the ways he's going save money in this country is by ending birth control and family planning," she added. "The most conservative economist will tell you that family planning saves money. It saves taxpayers money. It's ludicrous to think that Mitt Romney, who is running for president of the United States, thinks we're going to balance the budget by ending birth control access in this country."