By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. This appeared in the post-election digital edition of National Right to Life News, along with 31 other stories and commentaries. You can read the entire issue at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsNov2014.pdf
They spent millions of dollars on the election. They claimed to have knocked on more than two million doors, made more than a million phone calls, deployed more than 2,500 canvassers who worked with thousands of volunteers to get out the vote.
Sounds like we’re talking about one of the country’s major political parties, right? No. Not at all. These are some of the activities of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion chain, as described in the press release put out the day before the election.
Planned Parenthood heavily invested in pro-abortion candidates in battleground states of Texas, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, and Alaska, places where races were expected to be close. They lost all those races. Heavily favored incumbents they supported in senatorial races in Virginia and New Hampshire won, but by the narrowest of margins.
The week after the November 4 mid-terms Planned Parenthood tried to spin the election as neither a referendum on its “War on Women” mantra nor a repudiation of the abortion advocacy espoused by their high-profile candidates, almost all of whom were defeated. But nobody was listening.
This attempt to rewrite what happened nearly two weeks ago is a long ways from February of 2014, when a confident Planned Parenthood was loaded for bear. It announced plans to spend around $16 million on the upcoming elections.
Echoing the group’s past “War on Women” rhetoric, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told Politico, “The bottom line is: Many of these races are going to be determined by women and women voters. To the extent that we still have politicians who are running on a platform to repeal women’s access to health care and women’s rights, that’s a losing proposition. …We will absolutely be on the offense on these issues.”(Politico/ 2/26/14).
Planned Parenthood followed through on that pledge with promises to spend $3 million just on the Texas gubernatorial campaign of Wendy Davis, a Planned Parenthood favorite. Davis, then an obscure state Senator, filibustered against abortion clinic regulations and a ban on late abortions where unborn children can feel pain (see NRL News Today, 7/22/14).
Those laws passed anyway in a second special session, but a media “icon” was born.
In the months that followed, Planned Parenthood ran ads, recruited and trained volunteers, and made phone calls, not just in Texas, but across the country.
In the weekend before the election, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in its press release that supporters and volunteers sporting the pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts made 80,000 phone calls, went to the homes of 260,000 voters “to ensure drop-off voters knew the high stakes for women’s health this election and had the information they needed to get to the polls on November 4.” (“Drop-off” voters are those who vote in presidential elections but tend not to vote in mid-terms.)
Facebook photos showed a smiling Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in Wisconsin Saturday, North Carolina Sunday, and making calls in Florida on Monday.
Planned Parenthood had a particular slice of the electorate in mind, with the release expressing concern that “millennials” (younger people) and certain “communities that have been traditionally underrepresented, marginalized, and discriminated against” might sit out the mid-term election, noting that only 46.2 % of eligible women voted in 2010. Offering a list that could just as well describe their clinic marketing focus, Planned Parenthood pointed out that “Unmarried women, women of color and young people ages 18-29” currently represented “over half of the voting-eligible population.”
An Associated Press news story appearing 10/23/14 on a Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina TV news site indicated that Planned Parenthood Votes was spending more than $2 million, deploying 480 staffers and nearly as many volunteers on voter contact efforts, hoping to reach more than 400,000 voters in the state, particularly focusing on the hard fought election battle between pro-abortion Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and her pro-life challenger Republican Thom Tillis.
Tillis defeated the incumbent 49% to 47%. His victory was important to helping the Republicans take over control of the Senate.
Not that Planned Parenthood didn’t try. It went so far as to call people earlier and give them the opportunity to record a message on why they should vote. On the day before the election, the firm hired by Planned Parenthood was to call those people back and play that recording of their own voice back, allowing them to remind themselves to get to the polls.
North Carolina is not the only place that Planned Parenthood mobilized and spent money to defeat pro-life candidates and policies. Planned Parenthood Votes ran ads against pro-life Alaskan Senate candidate (and now Senator-elect) Dan Sullivan; against pro-life Colorado Senate candidate (and now Senator-elect) Cory Gardner, and against Joni Ernst, now Senator-elect from Iowa.
The political arm of Florida’s Planned Parenthood affiliates inserted themselves in the gubernatorial contest between pro-life incumbent Governor Rick Scott and his pro-abortion challenger Charlie Crist.
According to MSNBC, For the first time ever, Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates got involved in the senatorial contest in Georgia. They aimed digital ads and direct mail advertising at about 75,000 voters in the Atlanta area, unsuccessfully trying to keep pro-life candidate David Perdue from winning the open seat over pro-abortion Michelle Nunn. Perdue won by 8 points!
Planned Parenthood explicitly defended its abortion business in spending $1.6 million attempting to defeat a constitutional amendment to grant Tennesseans the opportunity to address abortion through their legislators (NRL News Today, 10/21/14). That effort, too, failed. Amendment 1 passed by a 52.6% to 47.4% margin. (See more about that on page 7.)
Planned Parenthood has tried to spin its epic losses by trying to argue that women and minorities still supported Democrats and that voters overall went for “moderate” candidates. The obvious questions are (1) why voters found pro-life Republicans more “moderate” than the pro-abortion Democrats Planned Parenthood supported; and (2) why they weren’t supportive of female and/or minority candidates such as Utah’s Mia Love, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, and Joni Ernst (against whom, it should be noted, Planned Parenthood supported a white male).
The thread that runs through all of Planned Parenthood’s endorsements, activities, and spending, the one condition for their support, is support for abortion, critical not only to Planned Parenthood’s agenda, but to its bottom line.
That policy of abortion on demand was clearly on the ballot this November, and that policy lost. And women, minorities, and their unborn babies won.
Pro-lifers may have been outspent by Planned Parenthood, but they got the word out and the voters responded. National Right to Life Note: Twenty-three percent of voters said that the abortion issue affected their vote and voted for candidates who oppose abortion. This compares to just 16% who said abortion affected their vote and voted for candidates who favor abortion, yielding a 7% advantage for pro-life candidates.
No one is under the illusion that Planned Parenthood will shut down its clinics, reconsider its radical abortion agenda, or pack its bags and go home. They’ll continue to work their allies in the White House and in the media, advancing their policies, and demanding their funding. And you can bet they will return the next election, as aggressive as ever.
This election shows, once again, that they can be beat.