Healthcare debate drives fundraising efforts on abortion (updated)

The hostility surrounding healthcare reform has galvanized both sides of
the abortion debate to vigorously campaign in the midterm elections.

had been a second- or third-tier issue in recent cycles, said Marjorie
Dannenfelser, who directs the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA), an
anti-abortion-rights group that supports primarily female candidates. “This
time it’s completely in the light of day. It is top of mind. It is a
driving force.”

{mosads}Anti-abortion-rights advocates are enraged over provisions of the
Democrats’ healthcare reform bill they say allow taxpayer money to
subsidize insurance policies that cover elective abortions. Donations
are pouring into the group’s political arm, the Susan B. Anthony List
Candidate Fund, which expects to spend close to $10 million this cycle.

And conservative candidates are competing for its endorsement. “For the first election since 2004, candidates are vying to be the most
pro-life,” said Dannenfelser. “On the Republican side, anyway.”

The group announced it was backing Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in California this week.

It’s supporting three two other top-tier female GOP Senate candidates — Nevada Republican Sue Lowden, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte and Jane
Norton in Colorado.

The group is also trying to unseat some
female anti-abortion-rights Democratic House members, such as Rep. Kathy
Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), for voting for the bill.

In California, the group is competing directly with EMILY’s List, a group that backs pro-abortion-rights female Democrats.

EMILY’s List is vigorously supporting incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in what’s expected to be a tough reelection fight.

Its members have also been more active this cycle because of healthcare reform.

“The healthcare debate really energized our members,” said Jonathan Parker, the group’s political director.

List donates directly to candidates, but it also uses independent
expenditures — an effort directed by Denise Feriozzi -— to mobilize female voters.

“We’re doing everything from paid communication — from TV
to radio to mail to field — to get the messages out to these women to
get them out to vote for our candidates,” Parker said.

While the two organizations share parallel if opposite goals, there’s
no comparison to their budgets: EMILY’s List spent $43 million in 2008.

for the group say they have stretched the playing field to the limit by
electing 12 new female members to the House and Senate in recent
cycles. It’s now turning its attention to gubernatorial races, backing Alex
Sink in the Florida contest.

Dannenfelser said her organization is focused on providing close to $1 million in support to Lowden, and will make significant expenditures on behalf of Fiorina and Norton.

“The full force for a very
top-tier candidate for us would be the bundling [of donations], all of
the over-air activities — robocalls, TV, radio, all that stuff — but
then also on-the-ground activity, grassroots organizing, all that,” she
said. “One or all of those things may apply.”

EMILY’s List strategists don’t anticipate its candidates will be
focused on the abortion issue, but instead will zero in on the
economy and jobs.

Dannenfelser says the debate won’t fade into the background.

“This [cycle] looks a little bit more like ’94 or 2004 when all the
polls showed that moral issues were a top-of-mind motivating factor in
why people voted,” she said. “When that happens, the much larger
increment went to Republican candidates.”

Updated May 4, 3:51 p.m.

(The group has not endorsed Ayotte in New Hampshire. “SBA is considering Kelly Ayotte for a possible endorsement but has not made a final decision yet,” a spokesman said.)

Tags Barbara Boxer Kelly Ayotte
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