Roundup: Will Anti-Choice Action Groups Regret Reaping What They Sowed?

Robin Marty

Numerous anti-choice Republicans have been voted into Congress, but is the tradeoff one that the anti-abortion movement may regret?

Was the Republican takeover of the House on Tuesday a true sign that the American people want Republicans in power, or merely a case of “Catholic” revenge?  The American Spectator is claiming it’s the latter.

A veritable tsunami of pro-life outrage among Catholics ensued, in spite of attempts of White House shills like Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, to dispute the statements of the Catholic bishops about the presence of abortion funding in the health care legislation. 

This outrage was apparent on November 2 when eight members of Stupak’s coalition were defeated. They included Catholic Rep. Steve Driehaus (D, OH-01), who brought a case to the Ohio Elections Commission, arguing the Susan B. Anthony List had misrepresented his vote on the health care bill. Other Catholics, Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper (D, PA-03), Charlie Wilson (D, OH-06), Chris Carney (D, PA-10), Paul Kanjorski (D, PA-11), Baron Hill (D, IN-09), and Brad Ellsworth (D, IN-08), who ran for the Senate, made pro-life claims a prominent campaign theme, and were also rejected by the voters.

Pushed, in part, by concern about the health care bill, Catholic voters across the nation returned to the GOP in numbers resembling the presidential victory of George W. Bush in 2004. CNN exit polls record 55 percent of Catholics voted for the GOP while AP polling showed a whopping 58 percent, a twenty point increase since 2008. Either way, the 2008 Catholic support for Obama has completely reversed itself, perhaps with a vengeance.

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In all, over 17 pro-life Catholics will be added to the Congress, while roughly 26 pro-abortion Catholics will be departing.

The heart of the Catholic vote belongs to voters who attend Mass regularly. Parse out these active Catholic voters from less active Catholics, and the results have consistently shown more support for socially conservative and Republican candidates. When I led Catholic outreach for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, we based our outreach on a comprehensive study that pointed repeatedly to the importance of making this distinction.

But the action groups are now owning up to the fact that their goals were not to simply get in more anti-choice politicians, but to make sure those politicians were Republican as well, and pushed their followers to vote the same way.  From Christianity Today:

Abortion issues seemed left in the dust as economic concerns drove this year’s election, but on Tuesday voters ousted several pro-life Democrats and ushered in fiscal conservatives who tend to oppose abortion.

As the names of defeated pro-life Democrats flashed across the screen Tuesday night, triumphant cheers erupted at Morton’s Steakhouse, where staff and supporters of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL) had gathered to watch election returns.

SBAL, which works to elect pro-life women to office, typically supports pro-life members of both parties. But that largely changed this year after most pro-life Democrats voted for the federal healthcare bill that many abortion opponents say allows for federal funding of abortion.

Three of the four Democrats most heavily targeted by SBAL lost their seats, including Reps. Steve Driehaus (Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (Penn.). Overall, 10 of 17 pro-life Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill were defeated on Tuesday, according to SBAL.

In the end, the election was less about furthering anti-choice numbers in Congress, and more focused on using the opportunity that the fictitious “government-funded abortion” lie offered to take a stab at ousting weak Democrats.  As Catholic News Agency explains:

As Catholic voters appeared to break for Republican candidates, Election Day 2010 changed the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, several governorships and Senate seats.
Pro-life Democrats, especially those who voted for the comprehensive health care reform law backed by President Obama, suffered heavily, while pro-life Republicans gained.

Overall, Republicans are projected to pick up more than 60 seats in the House and have already exceeded the 218 seats needed to take over as the leaders of the House.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to be named the Speaker of the House. He will be the first Catholic from the Republican Party to hold the position. He replaces another Catholic, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The health care bill may have played a role in the defeat of many self-described pro-life Democrats who voted for it.

However, some religious conservatives are waiting to see if they will regret their actions in ousting anti-choice politicians solely on their party label.  Over at Politics Daily, David Gibson writes:

When it comes to the battle against abortion, the law of unintended consequences may be the first lesson for the resurgent Republicans, even though the incoming Congress won’t be seated until January.

That’s because the same wave that swept GOP candidates to a takeover of the House on Tuesday also washed away half of the 40 or so pro-life Democrats who had given the movement unprecedented influence in their party and in Congress.

Moreover, many of those pro-life Democrats, including such stalwarts as Rep. Steve Dreihaus of Ohio’s 1st District and Kathleen Dahlkemper from Pennsylvania’s 3rd District, were in fact targeted for defeat by major pro-life organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List, which argued that those Democrats had betrayed their cause by backing health care reform and so deserved their fate.

While the health care law included unprecedented funding to aid pregnant women and similar measures aimed at reducing abortion — as well as making care more accessible for mothers and babies — conservative pro-life groups and religious organizations argued that it also included huge taxpayer subsidies for abortion.

Health care experts said that was not the case, and Democratic strategists said this fall’s campaigns against pro-life Democrats showed that the major groups that oppose abortion — the National Right To Life Committee, the Family Research Council and the like — are more concerned with promoting the Republican Party than the pro-life movement.

“They put all their eggs in one party,” said Kristen Day, executive director for Democrats for Life of America, which has been pushing a pro-life agenda in the Democratic Party. “They don’t want two pro-life parties because most of them want a Republican majority.”

Mini Roundup: Meet the new Stupak.  He’s just as anti-choice, but now he’s a Republican, too.

November 4, 2010

November 3, 2010

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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