Groups worry women's issues may not dominate 2014 election

President Obama won the female vote over Mitt Romney, with women citing concerns about reproductive rights and their approval of the healthcare law as some of their reasons, along with Democrats successfully painting the GOP as waging a "war on women."

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It was also an historic year for female candidates: 20 women will serve in the Senate next year, and the House also saw a historic increase in women with 16 newly-elected females joining the lower chamber.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said that while her group saw women's issues play a large role in the presidential election, it was yet unclear whether they would boost turnout to the same extent in 2014.

"I think there's real risks in 2014 of, again, a demographic and turnout problem. We have to look at, can these issues actually be motivating and helpful for that?" she said on Wednesday at a post-election briefing.

Part of that concern lies in the fact that Republicans no longer seem as eager to overturn Obama's healthcare reform law.

EMILY's List, a group backing women who support abortion rights, and its Independent Expenditure arm, Women Vote!, as well as Planned Parenthood Action Fund, were three of the outside spending groups to see a large majority of their candidates prevail on Election Day.

And much of those groups' messaging focused on the prospect of Republicans overturning the Affordable Care Act, as well as support for measures to restrict contraceptive coverage, as evidence that the GOP was launching a "war on women."

But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said in an interview with ABC that he considers Obama's signature healthcare legislation "the law of the land" at this point.

Though he walked the comment back, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found support for repealing the law at just 33 percent, a record low that will likely hamper calls for repeal in the coming months.

But Laguens said that she foresees Republicans at the state level working to hinder implementation of the law, efforts that could provide Planned Parenthood Action Fund and other women's groups opportunities for messaging.

"The challenge is, if you don't have one kind of unified national narrative, how do you make what happens in Ohio and Oklahoma and Florida and here and there come alive as that same narrative?" she said.

The historic gains for Democratic women in the House come at a time when Republicans saw a net loss of about half a dozen women in the House.

And Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said women's groups must "double-down" in 2014, and tied the fate of female candidates to the success of the Democratic Party as a whole.

"We have to double-down in 2014. We've got to make sure that we recruit more women to run for office because it's not just a slogan that when women run, women win — they do. They do. And when women run, Democrats win," she said.