MURKOWSKI WAS WRONG BEFORE SHE WAS RIGHT…. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the first congressional Republican to break ranks in support of Planned Parenthood, and depending on how one perceives Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) ridiculous vacillating, she’s arguably the only congressional Republican to show real leadership on this.

To her credit, Murkowski isn’t backing down.

In an interview this weekend with the Anchorage Daily News, Murkowski explained the stakes:

“More fundamentally, without the care Planned Parenthood provides — without access to Pap smears, pelvic exams and breast exams — women will die,” the senators said.

Indeed, one in five women in the U.S. have used one of Planned Parenthood’s 800 health centers, where the organization provides nearly one million Pap tests and more than 830,000 breast exams each year. The organization also administers nearly four million STD tests every year, including those for HIV. Just three percent of the organization’s work is related to abortions.

What’s more, Alex Seitz-Wald noted that as Murkowski continues to say the right things, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) are all expressing discomfort with their own party’s move on this.

And while I hate to sound picky, it’s still worth emphasizing a pesky detail: the House GOP spending bill — the one including brutal domestic spending cuts — eliminated every penny of federal funding for Title X and Planned Parenthood.

And who voted in support of the House Republican proposal when it reached the Senate floor? Murkowski, Scott Brown, Snowe, Collins, and Kirk did.

Given the extremist tilt of the Republican Party, I’m genuinely pleased that these relative moderates are on the correct side of this debate. But the political world shouldn’t have short memories — it was less three weeks ago that the Senate considered a House package that would deny family planning and contraception to Americans who need the aid. Each of these senators knew the legislation would fail, and knew the GOP cuts went too far, but they voted for it anyway, basically because his party told them to.

Update: It appears ThinkProgress has walked back its report, and attributed a quote to Murkowski that actually came from 20 Democratic senators. The larger point, about Murkowski and GOP “moderates” getting wrong before they got it right, stands, but the rest of the original TP report should be reconsidered accordingly.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.