Despite Sen. Alberta Darling's claim that she left the board of directors at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin before she was elected to the State Assembly in 1990, a review of the organization's records shows she spent five years on the board after being elected.
And while Darling says she left the group when its focus "shifted" to abortion, Planned Parenthood actually began offering abortion services while she still was on the group's board.
Darling's statement was in response to a journalist's question during a .
"I belonged to the Planned Parenthood board when I was a very young woman, before I entered public office," said Darling, a Republican who is facing Democrat Sandy Pasch in Tuesday's 8th Senate District recall election. "I joined that board because I was working on family planning and wanting children to be wanted, and I was working on teen pregnancy prevention.
"Then when Planned Parenthood – this was like 25, 30 years ago – when Planned Parenthood shifted its focus to abortion, I said, 'I can't be on this board, that's not why i joined,' and I got off. That was before I was in elected office," she said. "That was before I was a state rep."
Darling went on to say that while she opposed federal funding for the organization in the 2011-13 budget, she preserved 90 percent of the money by turning it into health block grants to be used on the county level. She said she opposed the federal funding because legislators had concerns about funding abortions.
"I definitely changed my opinion about Planned Parenthood myself 30 years ago because it seemed to me they were putting much more emphasis into abortion than into family planning and teen pregnancy prevention. So I got out," she said.
Records from Planned Parenthood show Darling was a member of the board from 1986 to 1995. Planned Parenthood provided Patch with annual reports from every year, with each report listing Darling as a member of the board.
Darling was elected to the state Assembly in 1990 and elected to the state Senate in 1992.
In a statement, Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said the group's board decided in 1989 to begin providing abortion care in 1990.
"During the nearly 10 years that Darling served in this leadership capacity, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin was doing the same work we do now: providing high quality reproductive health care and accurate, honest community education about sexuality and reproductive health to those who are in need," Atkinson said.
Atkinson questioned why Darling, a co-chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, would make an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, which could lead to the closing of clinics across the state.
"Her amendment eliminated state support to nine health centers serving 12,000 patients in small communities like Kenosha, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Wisconsin Rapids," Atkinson said in the statement. "The essential health care services provided at these health centers include life-saving cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing and treatment. Abortion care is not provided at these health centers."
Darling's campaign spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment on this story Thursday.
WisconsinEye, a non-profit organization that provides video coverage of state Capitol proceedings and other civic events, has full video of the forum, with the Planned Parenthood discussion beginning at the 36:30 mark.