Pro-Life, Pro-Choice Groups Pouring Resources Into Midterm Elections

According to polls this summer, abortion was far from many Americans’ top priority for the midterms, but two of the largest advocacy groups surrounding that issue upped their ground game compared to previous elections.

That’s probably because while President Donald Trump’s administration has focused on tax cuts and immigration, it also pursued legislation and executive actions that both sides of the abortion debate have marked as significant developments on the issue.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s likely confirmation will also put the Supreme Court in the hands of a conservative majority and will make it more likely that pro-life legislation — both at the state and federal level — will face less opposition if it reaches the top of the judicial branch.

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Planned Parenthood Votes, the group’s political action committee, said its ground game for the upcoming election cycle was its largest yet for midterms.

“We have a clear message for politicians who are undermining our freedoms and making it harder to get health care: We’re voting you out in 2018,” Planned Parenthood Votes Executive Director Deirdre Schifeling said in a press release.

Although the organization is likely best known for abortion and contraception, the group has also been at the forefront of denouncing Trump, whom many left-leaning individuals saw as a disaster for women’s rights.

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Last week, the group announced its political and advocacy arms would implement a $20 million ground game initiative in multiple states, including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

“We have an army of volunteers,” Kelley Robinson, the group’s national organizing director, reportedly said. With a goal of reaching 4.5 million voters, the group already held more than 30 kickoff meetings with more than 400 volunteers.

In some of those states, however, the group will likely have to counter the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List’s massive army of canvassers.

The group has already knocked on 1.5 million doors in Indiana, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana. It also got a head start, funneling resources into the 2017-2018 election cycle for the past 19 months.

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SBA List told IJR that it’s hoping to knock on 2 million doors and expand its ranks to 1,000 canvassers by Election Day. Using previous election data, the group is targeting persuadable voters and pro-lifers who typically only vote in presidential election years.

The group has been telling voters about legislators’ stances on taxpayer funding for abortion and/or late-term abortion — a strategy it said persuaded the vast majority (82 percent) of target voters to be less likely to vote for their Democratic incumbent.

Planned Parenthood has maintained that public opinion is on its side, pointing to polls showing majorities favoring abortion access and supporting funding for the organization.

Earlier this year, Marist and the Knights of Columbus released polling results showing that while the vast majority of Americans supported abortion access under certain circumstances, 76 percent favored significant restrictions on abortion.

The poll, released in January, came out around the same time that Senate Democrats blocked a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks — a move that provoked Trump’s ire and that will likely be part of both Planned Parenthood’s and SBA List’s messaging in the lead-up to midterms.

While it’s unclear what Congress will pursue next year, pro-life advocates have expressed dismay that Republicans haven’t leveraged their supermajority to defund Planned Parenthood. The group receives hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds but maintains that the money doesn’t go toward abortion.

Trump tried to make it more difficult for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to keep federal funds when his Health and Human Services Department proposed a rule effectively requiring organizations to choose between performing abortions and receiving Title X grants.

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