This article originally appeared on WashingtonPost.com on October 19, 2010.
Anti-abortion rights group targets 42 Democrats
By Julie Hirschfield Davis
WASHINGTON — An anti-abortion rights group spending heavily to influence the midterm elections is targeting 42 House Democrats in a $1 million mail campaign aimed at turning them out of Congress.
The Susan B. Anthony List, focused on electing women who oppose abortion rights, is sending mailings to more than 2 million like-minded voters spotlighting Democrats’ records on abortion.
The pamphlets, which feature photographs of a sleeping baby juxtaposed against close-ups of the targeted lawmaker, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, equate a vote for the health care law with support for taxpayer-financed abortion.
The law walled off federal money from paying for the procedure, and an executive order Obama signed earlier this year affirmed long-standing restrictions on taxpayer-financed abortion, but activists on the issue argue that neither is sufficient.
The mail campaign’s hit list ranges from Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper in a conservative Pennsylvania district to Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
The pamphlet to Frank’s constituents says he “votes ‘NO’ on Massachusetts values” and asks recipients to “Vote NO” on him. It highlights his health care vote, his perfect rating from the abortion-rights groups NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, and his near-unwavering support for Pelosi’s agenda.
It’s the latest salvo from abortion foes geared toward turning out socially conservative voters who Republicans hope will help oust a growing list of Democrats and hand the GOP House control on Nov. 2.
The same group has run TV and radio ads in several close contests, including Senate races in California and Nevada, and has been hammering House Democrats in conservative districts – including Reps. Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Joe Donnelly of Indiana – for voting for the health care measure.
The mail campaign is far broader, targeting some of the most vulnerable Democrats like Reps. Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Debbie Halvorson of Illinois and Dina Titus of Nevada, as well as some only recently considered potentially at risk such as Arizona’s Raul Grijalva, Colorado’s John Salazar and Wisconsin’s Ron Kind.
Another anti-abortion group, Americans United for Life, is targeting some of the same lawmakers in radio ads in a dozen districts.
“The fact is the health care reform bill does provide for a massive expansion of abortion, which is not cured by the executive order, so anybody who voted for that has to do some explaining,” said William Saunders, the legal counsel for Americans United for Life.
Democrats deny the claim and are fighting to block what they argue is a false message.
The Susan B. Anthony List is locked in a legal battle with Driehaus after he got Ohio election officials to block a billboard that was to read, “Shame on Steve Driehaus,” beside a picture of him, and accuse the first-term Democrat of voting “FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”
Driehaus says that’s false, and the Susan B. Anthony List is now asking a judge to overturn a state election law aimed at barring false statements about a candidate’s voting record, saying it’s overly vague and curbs freedom of speech.
The anti-abortion groups argue that Obama’s executive order is vulnerable to court challenges, and in any case would not have been necessary if the health care law truly barred tax dollars from paying for elective abortions. They also say if the administration deemed abortion a preventive service, all plans would have to cover it.
Dahlkemper asked to have a radio spot against her by Americans United for Life pulled off the air, calling it slanderous.