(CNN) – Mitt Romney reiterated his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood Tuesday, telling a local television reporter in a St. Louis suburb he would "get rid of" the women's health organization if he were president.
In context, Romney's remark appeared to refer to revoking federal funding for the group, which many conservatives oppose because it provides abortions. As president, Romney wouldn't be in position to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood because it isn't a government entity. But his Democratic critics were still quick to pounce with context or not.
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Answering a question from CNN affiliate KDSK of St. Louis, Romney listed off a series of programs he would either eliminate or defund in order to reduce the federal deficit, utilizing a frequent campaign line that he would ask whether a program is "so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for."
"You get rid of Obamacare, but there are others," Romney the station. "Planned Parenthood, we're gonna get rid of that. The subsidy for Amtrak, I would eliminate that. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, both excellent programs, but we can't afford to borrow money to pay for these things."
Speaking on CNN Tuesday night, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said the candidate was listing programs, including Planned Parenthood, that could be defunded to balance the budget.
"He singled out some areas of the budget he would eliminate or curtail, all in the name of achieving a balanced budget," Fehrnstrom said.
He added, "It would not be getting rid of the organization. They have other sources of funding besides government operations, but in order to achieve balance, we have to make some tough decisions about spending."
The explanation didn't stop Planned Parenthood and Romney's Democratic rivals from hitting back at the comment. In a statement, President Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager said the remark was "offensive."
"Mitt Romney's comments today that he would 'get rid of' Planned Parenthood show how low he is willing to go to pander to the most extreme elements of the Republican base," Stephanie Cutter said. "Planned Parenthood is a vital health care provider for millions of American women, giving them affordable access to life-saving services like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, also characterized Romney's words as a play to the conservative wing of the GOP.
"He did everything he could to pander to the far right wing of his party with extreme and out-of-touch positions like vowing to get rid of Planned Parenthood, as he did today," Schultz said in a statement Tuesday.
Planned Parenthood defended its work against Romney's plan, saying the services it provides help protect women's health.
"When Mitt Romney says he wants to 'get rid' of Planned Parenthood, he means getting rid of the preventive health care that three million people a year rely on for cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care. This is dangerous and out of step with what most Americans want," Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
CNN's Peter Hamby, Jessica Yellin, Justin Lear and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.