Pro-life issues are the ‘untold story’ of 2010 midterm elections

Pregnant Woman Democrat Republican CNA US Catholic News 10 25 10

While media pundits have focused on economic issues as key in the 2010 U.S. elections, pro-life leaders say abortion is the “untold story” in politics this year. Pro-life concerns determined the victor in many primary races, while opposition to taxpayer-funded abortion in the health care bill is important to many voters.

Americans United for Life (AUL) vice president for communications Matthew Faraci said there is a “convergence” of economic and pro-life issues in the issue of taxpayer-funded abortion.

“Seven out of ten voters are opposed,” he told CNA, citing a Quinnipiac poll.

In his view, the Republican Party’s pledge to make permanent the Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion funding makes the pro-life cause prominent “like it hasn’t been in a long time.”

The Susan B. Anthony List aims to play a role in dozens of races. SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser challenged the claim that economic issues are really the deciding factor in the election.

“The people that are saying that the loudest are pundits and folks inside the beltway and in the boardroom of major papers,” she commented. “(Political commentator) Dick Morris is usually a pretty brilliant guy, but he’s saying some pretty stupid stuff right now. And it shows to me that he just hasn’t looked at it very closely yet.”

“The truth is that economic issues are an overriding concern in every household in America, but it’s also true that people can think about more than one issue at a time, and so should leaders,” she told CNA. “This House of Representatives is likely to be among the most pro-life in history. That means it matters.”

Being the most pro-life primary candidate has been pivotal in states such as New Hampshire and California “of all places.”

“It’s the big untold story,” Dannenfelser said. “To have been pro-choice would have been a killer.”

Noting that record-high primary turnout should carry over into the general election, she claimed that the pro-life vote might be “decisive” in close elections.

She noted four Senate races could place pro-life women in the Senate: Carly Fiorina in California, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. All are Republicans.

The SBA List is also seeking to achieve an “historic moment” of having strongly committed pro-life governors. It favors Arizona’s incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer, New Mexico’s Susan Martinez, Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley – again, all Republicans.

The pro-life group is also targeting pro-life Democrats who voted in favor of the health care legislation. This drew criticism from Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA).

Day said a majority of Americans believe in “the sanctity of life” and people are supporting pro-life beliefs even in times of economic distress.

“This is particularly true in areas where the citizens are naturally Democratic because of their values of economic fairness for everyone, such as Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.  That is why these areas are being targeted by the Republican Party with the aid of Republican pro-life groups which could cause pro-life advocates to lose some of our strongest voices within the Democratic Party.

“Good for Republicans, bad for the pro-life movement,” she told CNA.

Day said it was “vitally important” for Democratic pro-life congressmen to retain their seats so that the pro-life movement remains bipartisan and effective and does not become “a wedge issue to win elections.” She characterized 2010 as a “watershed year” because of the passage of the Pregnant Women Support Act and the health care legislation that guaranteed health insurance coverage for children and pregnant women while in her view prohibiting taxpayer funded abortion.

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The SBA List holds that the health care legislation funds abortions. It is running billboards against pro-life Democrats characterizing their vote for health care as a vote for abortion funding. Backers of an Ohio congressman have filed a complaint in Ohio charging that the claim is false. As of Oct. 25, the claims against SBA List were allowed to move forward by federal judge Timothy Black.

Dannenfelser told CNA many of these candidates had initially agreed with the SBA List that adding pro-life restrictions to the bill was “the most important vote since Roe v. Wade.” They later changed their minds.

She claimed it was “politically impotent” to react to a vote for the health care bill by “politically rolling over and praying for breadcrumbs.”

“You don’t see unions behaving like that, you don’t see the NRA behaving like that. Any movement worth its salt doesn’t behave like that.”

Dannenfelser told CNA that Rep. Dan Lipinski, a pro-life Democrat from Illinois, should be the new standard-bearer for pro-lifers in his party. He resisted party leaders to vote against the health care legislation.

“He’s not someone who will cave at the last minute. We want to put wind behind his sails,” Dannenfelser said.

Faraci said that this election cycle is the first time AUL Action is participating. It plans to be “very focused” and “very effective” in its tactics. Its ads are active in twelve races, targeting candidates who “supported taxpayer funded abortion as established in the health care law” in districts where the life issue is of particular importance.

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“A lot of them ran as pro-life,” he said of the candidates, commenting that claims that the law does not fund abortion are “just incorrect.”

Asked about the wisdom of targeting pro-life Democrats, he said that a bipartisan pro-life presence is “absolutely” necessary for the long-term success of the movement. However, he explained that AUL Action had made it clear to congressmen that the vote on the health care bill was “extremely important.”

“If they didn’t stick to their pro-life principles, we were going to hold them accountable,” Faraci commented. “I think you will find, after the mid-term elections, that life counts when it comes to elections.”