News Politics

Activist Groups May Determine the Role of Choice in the Election

Robin Marty

A new Gallup survey has the line evenly divided between pro-choice and anti-choice voters. Will PACs put candidates on top?

Both pro-choice and anti-choice political wings are focusing on women’s reproductive rights in the upcoming election. Yet, as last week’s debate showed us, a woman’s right to control the size of her family isn’t garnering the same attention as the deficit and unemployment. This, despite the fact that family size is one of the biggest determinants of economic security.

Why so little interest? Gallup may hold the answer.

According to a recent survey, only one in six voters considered abortion to be the top issue of the election. Of those, pro-choice voters and anti-choice voters are fairly evenly divided.

Gallup reports:

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Seventeen percent say they will vote only for candidates for major office who share their own views on abortion, one of the higher rates of abortion-centric voting seen in presidential election years since 1992….Gallup finds slightly more pro-life voters than pro-choice voters saying they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views, 21% vs. 15%. That represents 9% and 7%, respectively, of all voters — a slight pro-life tilt, albeit one that could potentially benefit pro-life Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Gallup concludes, “Unless one of the presidential candidates makes a significantly greater effort than the other to encourage turnout among his like-minded abortion voters, the electoral impact of the abortion issue will be minimal.” That’s exactly what both sides seem intent on doing.

National Right to Life Committee sees the poll as a rallying cry for its PAC to swing into action. Dave Andrusko, editor of National Right to Life News, writes:

[A]bortion is a larger issue than in any election since 1996—except for 2004 when a total of 17% were single-issue abortion voters (12% pro-life, 5% pro-choice). That’s point number one.

Point number two, when the work of NRL PAC is factored in, the increment will be larger. Why do I say that? Because Gallup concludes that typically single-issue pro-life voters  enjoy a two point advantage over single-issue pro-choice voters.

Yet when NRL PAC conducts post-election polls, the margin is always larger than +2. Why? Because of what NRL PAC has accomplished.

In other words, there is no reason to believe that pro-life candidates  in 2012 won’t receive what is oft-times a crucial boost BECAUSE they are pro-life.

NRLC points to “razor thin margins” on which that candidate could win, and it’s a battleground plan that many news outlets are starting to note. Virginia, a hotbed of opposing forces over reproductive rights, has become the center of the debate, due to its TRAP regulations that could shut down many clinics in the state. These regulations were tempered by the state board of health but then sent back to be overturned when the state’s anti-choice attorney general refused to sign the new guidelines. The clinic regulations and the outcry over mandatory ultrasounds earlier in the year forced the governor to backpedal slightly on the requirements. Voters in Virginia are now keyed up in a way that those in few other states have been.

According to Outcome Magazine, abortion and choice could be pivotal factors in who wins the state:

University of Virginia political analyst Geoffrey Skelley said that “while abortion is not a key issue in this election, abortion within the context of women’s rights seems to be a relatively important issue in Virginia.”

“The economy is the number one issue everywhere, but due to recent events in Virginia politics, abortion and other related issues — such as access to birth control — are playing a role,” he added.

“They are one reason why Obama has around a 10 percent lead among women over Mitt Romney in Virginia.”

A ten-point lead among women could be a winner, but anti-choice opponents seem undaunted by it. “[T]he issue of abortion gives Mitt Romney an advantage over President Obama because pro-life voters are much more passionate than pro-abortion voters,” concludes LifeNews.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”