Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a group of abortion rights activists Tuesday that he would accomplish universal health care for all Americans by the end of his first term.
Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Public Affairs Action Fund's annual conference, Obama also touted his understanding of women's issues and his support of abortion rights and sex education.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards set the tone for the event when she said women who visit the group's clinics "come from red and blue states ... but they are sick of what they are seeing and hearing from this administration."
Obama echoed that disdain for the president's policies as he spoke before an invigorated crowd of at least 500 activists, supporters and staffers from across the country. He also took aim at the current Supreme Court.
"It's time for a different attitude," Obama said. "We know that five men don't know better than one woman."
But "one woman" Obama failed to make reference to is his chief rival for the presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was scheduled to speak to the conference later in the day. The Planned Parenthood political arm endorsed Clinton's 2000 bid for the Senate, but it has yet to endorse a 2008 presidential candidate. The fight between the two candidates for the fund's support mirrors their larger battle for the women's vote.
Obama said that as a father of two daughters he appreciates the importance of educating people about safe sex: "I want my daughters to understand sex is not casual."
If elected, Obama said, he would devise a public plan to push what he considers "essential" sex education, as well as the kinds of medical services offered through Planned Parenthood, which includes counseling and abortions.
He said sex education goes hand-in-hand with teaching kids science: "There's nothing wrong with science. ... We must never be willing to consign a teenage girl to suffer because she [lacks] birth control."
In what was perhaps the boldest statement of the evening, Obama claimed he would achieve a universal health care system in four years. Speaking as if he were already president, he said, "I believe we can have universal health care by the end of this term [pause] ... By the end of my first term."