A major abortion-rights group on Wednesday criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over what it called "disappointing and ill-advised'' remarks, the second public rift in a year with a lawmaker such organizations have long considered one of their staunchest congressional allies.
In an interview published Wednesday in which the California Democrat defended a woman's right to abortion, Pelosi said, ``I don't believe in abortion on demand.'' The interview appeared in Roll Call, which covers Congress.
NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a written statement that with abortion rights under attack by lawmakers, advocates need their supporters ``to speak with a clear and strong voice'' and should not use ``twisted GOP talking points.''
"We don't know women who demand abortion,'' said the statement by Sasha Bruce, a NARAL senior vice president. Bruce added, "We do know women who make thoughtful decisions about how and if they want to start a family, and who need access to all reproductive-health care services.''
The unusual public reproach came with Republicans trying to halt federal funds for Planned Parenthood, which provides women's health care and abortions and sometimes furnishes fetal tissue to researchers.
President Barack Obama vetoed legislation last week blocking that money and weakening his health care overhaul. Abortion-rights groups are bracing for a renewed effort after November's elections, which might succeed should the GOP win the White House and retain control of Congress.
"Time and time again, Leader Pelosi has stood up for women and our reproductive rights,'' NARAL said. ``But at a moment when so much is at stake, her comments are particularly disappointing and ill-advised.''
Pelosi said in the published interview that she comes from "a very Catholic family, largely pro-life.'' She noted she had five children and "I'm with the program in terms of the Catholic Church.''
She added, "If there's one issue that really is almost inflaming to women, is when politicians say we will influence the size and timing of your family, we will decide what is right for you.''
Asked Wednesday about NARAL's criticism of her remarks about abortion on demand, Pelosi said, ``I never supported that.'' She said lawmakers and others should try to "make sure that women have the right to make their own decisions in terms of the size and timing of their families. That's something that I have been passionate about.''
Last March, abortion-rights groups criticized Pelosi over a provision curbing abortions at community health centers, which largely serve lower-income women, that she agreed to include in a bipartisan compromise bill that also revamped how Medicare reimburses doctors.
Pelosi argued that those restrictions were temporary and merely extended long-standing prohibitions on using federal money for abortions, with few exceptions. Planned Parenthood and NARAL strongly condemned that language.
In a show of support, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., another abortion-rights supporter, issued a statement Wednesday saying, "There is no one who has been a stronger champion of a woman's right to choose'' than Pelosi.