Anti-Choice Super PAC Aims to Swing Senate Control With Attacks on Pro-Choice Democrats

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Anti-Choice Super PAC Aims to Swing Senate Control With Attacks on Pro-Choice Democrats

Sofia Resnick

During a panel session at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List’s super PAC said the group will continue targeting incumbent Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Mark Pryor (AR) as extreme in their support of abortion rights.

Click here for all our coverage of the 2014 Values Voter Summit.

During a panel session at the social conservative Values Voter Summit on Saturday in Washington, D.C., the head of the Susan B. Anthony List’s super PAC said the group will continue targeting incumbent Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA), and Mark Pryor (AR) as extreme in their support of abortion rights.

Former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), who is the SBA List’s vice president of government affairs and heads the Women Speak Out PAC, said her group is focusing its messaging on abortion.

There have been recent calls from GOP leadership to lessen Republicans’ focus on abortion in the lead-up to the midterms.

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“It’s interesting that people are often told not to talk about the life issue, but in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina, and other states too, the life issue can make all the difference,” said Musgrave, speaking on a panel about the “pro-life battleground” heading into the mid-term elections. “We are very hopeful that the life issue will make all the difference in these races, that we will change the United States Senate to a pro-life Senate and set the stage for the presidential election in 2016.”

So far this year, Women Speak Out PAC has spent approximately $1.1 million in the midterm federal elections, according to its most recent report of receipts and disbursements filed with the Federal Election Commission in September.

Musgrave later acknowledged that the SBA List failed in its effort to help elect Ken Cuccinelli governor of Virginia last year. She said Cuccinelli and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney lost their races in part because they were defined early by their opponents and did not fight hard enough against claims they were launching a “war on women.” Women Speak Out’s strategy, thus, has been to try to define these Democratic Senate candidates early on, primarily as pro-abortion zealots.

The SBA List introduced part of its battleground strategy at a donors conference in March.

In North Carolina, the political group NC Values Coalition has been handing out fliers and releasing TV ads paid for by Women Speak Out that claim incumbent Hagan supports taxpayer-funded abortions (because she voted for the Affordable Care Act) and opposes abortion bans at 20 weeks. Tami Fitzgerald, the North Carolina state director of Women Speak Out, who runs the NC Values Coalition, said the super PAC has been attempting to canvass mostly anti-choice, Christian voters who rarely vote.

“She is pro-abortion, and she is unashamed,” Fitzgerald said of Hagan.

An example of an attack ad funded by Women Speak Out, which was on display at the conference, is a pink-and-white polka-dotted door hanger featuring a head-scratching baby who is depicted claiming that Hagan “refuses to protect unborn babies.” The door hanger claims Hagan “votes to send foreign aid money to support China’s brutal forced-abortion policies” and “voted to make it easier to sneak underage girls across state lines to get abortions.”

Another Women Speak Out-funded TV ad attacking Hagan tells the story of a couple (undisclosed is that the husband is a longtime Tea Party operative) who gave birth to a very premature baby, born at 24 weeks. “I didn’t think, at 24 weeks, you could have a viable baby,” Becca Ryun says in the ad. Her husband, Ned, adds: “It’s a human being. It wants to live. It has a soul. It has a will. It has a desire to live.”

Women Speak Out is endorsing current North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. As Fitzgerald noted, under Tillis’ leadership, the state legislature passed several anti-abortion restrictions, including most recently a bill (part of which is tied up in litigation) that requires abortion clinics to show women seeking an abortion a sonogram of their fetus before they can have the abortion.

“We have a clear choice in North Carolina,” Fitzgerald said.

She also spoke in a positive light about changes in North Carolina’s voting laws—signed into law in 2013 and unsuccessfully challenged by the Justice Department—which included decreased early voting days and ending same-day registration.

Fitzgerald said that the race between Hagan and Tillis is in a “dead heat.” She also said that more money from other conservative super PACs, such as American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity, will likely be coming in to fund ads promoting Tillis.

“I think the estimate was 90 million dollars’ worth of TV ads will be running in North Carolina before the election is over,” she said.