Congress

Abortion-rights groups lay out 2020 races they plan to target

The moves come on the heels of recently passed state restrictions on abortion in six states that will all face court challenges

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, speaks at an abortion-rights rally at Supreme Court in Washington to protest new state bans on abortion services on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. On Wednesday, abortion-rights groups outlined the races they plan to target in 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Abortion-rights groups outlined the political races they plan to target Wednesday, a day after the groups organized 500 events across the country. Anti-abortion groups countered with plans to sharpen the Republican platform with stricter anti-abortion language, a day after some groups met at the White House.

The moves come on the heels of recently passed state restrictions on abortion in six states that will all face court challenges.

[Legal battle heats up as more states test strict abortion bans]

“Republicans are fearing, as they should, the political backlash this terrible, terrible legislation that they are allowing to move through at the state level,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a press call Wednesday. “Time is not on their side. That is why they’re pushing this draconian legislation even though they have the White House and they also have the courts.”

On Tuesday, abortion-rights groups including NARAL and Planned Parenthood held events across the country in opposition to the new state laws limiting abortion. Four states this year passed laws banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, while Alabama and Missouri also passed more comprehensive laws with strict bans.

[Trump civil rights official wants to defend abortion opponents and religious freedom]

Hogue said NARAL is now starting to rally their supporters in key voting demographics ahead of the 2020 elections in these and other states.

Similarly, Planned Parenthood is working in states like Georgia, Missouri, Alabama and Ohio, and building on a digital ad campaign that will begin airing next week targeting vulnerable U.S. senators running next year.

Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said the group’s supporters are showing fresh enthusiasm. Planned Parenthood has been a prime target for anti-abortion groups since some of its clinics provide abortions.

“This is only the beginning. Planned Parenthood is going to harness this energy with all of our partners here to lead the charge to fight back,” said Wen. “We are mobilizing our activities in our top targeted states and laying these extreme bills at the feet of governors, state legislators and other anti-abortion politicians.”

Hogue, who is from Texas, said the groups are playing the long game to also flip state legislatures to prevent future abortion bans.

“With regard to the states in 2020, I think we’re going to see a lot of gains in Georgia, Ohio for sure. We’ll pick up a couple seats in Missouri, I’ll anticipate,” she said.

Anthony Romero, executive director at the America Civil Liberties Union, said important races are taking place even in 2019, including the gubernatorial election in Kentucky. In that state, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin has been a strong abortion opponent, and is being challenged by Democrat Andy Beshear.

“The 2020 election will be super important because it will be a referendum,” said Romero.

But he warned that the lasting effects of current policies won’t be solved immediately even if they flip seats. “Part of what we’ve had to do is to message to our constituents and our supporters, that we are likely to be in a ... battle that lasts several years,” he said.

Abortion opponents’ plans

Anti-abortion groups are pursuing a two-pronged approach — pushing for further restrictions while also increasing efforts on issues beyond abortion they believe could even win Democratic support.

A number of prominent anti-abortion groups wrote a letter to GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel on Wednesday asking Republicans to further limit the exceptions allowed for certain abortions supported by federal funding.

The Hyde amendment, an annual appropriations rider that lists the requirements for using federal funds to pay for abortion, only provides exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the woman.

The groups, in light of recently passed state laws that would prohibit most abortions even in cases of rape and incest, argue it’s time for the Hyde amendment to be updated to be more restrictive.

“We understand that issues like rape and incest are difficult topics to tackle; nevertheless, it is our view that the value of human life is not determined by the circumstances of one’s conception or birth,” the groups wrote to McDaniel.

Shifting the party’s stance will likely be divisive, and not all of the biggest anti-abortion groups have signed onto the letter.

Even President Donald Trump, who has close ties to the anti-abortion movement, recently tweeted he opposes eliminating the rape and incest exceptions in abortion laws.

White House officials on Tuesday met with conservative groups including the Family Research Council, Students for Life of America, and the Independent Women’s Forum, according to an attendee.

Ivanka Trump attended the event, which focused on issues besides abortion such as ways to empower young parents through policies including family leave and being able to reallocate Social Security funds to be used for family expenses.

The attendee said it is a common misconception that the anti-abortion community does not support life after birth, and there have been ongoing meetings about family leave policies.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.