WaPo: Pro-Abortion Groups Targeted Moderate Voters Using ‘Language of Personal Freedom’

President of Planned Parenthood Leana Wen speaks during a protest against abortion bans, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, outside the Supreme Court in Washington. A coalition of dozens of groups held a National Day of Action to Stop the Bans, with other events planned throughout the week. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Pro-abortion groups utilized typically Republican arguments about personal freedom to convince many conservative and moderate voters to turn against pro-life measures during the midterm elections, the Washington Post‘s Rachel Roubein reported on Friday.

Roubein detailed how leftwing activists crafted a careful language campaign inspired by Republicans to frame the abortion debate around “keep[ing] the government out of Americans’ private medical decisions” before voters’ decided for or against ballot initiatives in red and purple states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan.

“The notion of personal freedom is a salient message to more conservative voters. Republicans embraced anti-government messages amid the pandemic, opposing vaccine mandates and lockdowns. A few years earlier, they used language of government overreach in railing against Obamacare. This message is also primed to target those who may personally oppose abortion,’ Roubein wrote.

In Michigan for example, the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign released an ad featuring a man who tells viewers: “Let’s keep the government away from our doctors.” A random man named Bill says:

We are fighters here. We know it’s important for our families and their freedom to decide. Lansing politicians want to ban abortion in Michigan, but we can stop them by voting yes on Proposal 3. No politician should tell my daughter what to do when medical emergencies come up. Let’s keep the government away from our doctors and restore the rights we had under Roe v. Wade.

The group’s guidebook for canvassers also “contained this message as a talking point for volunteers” who knocked on doors. These volunteers also reportedly stuck to talking points like how the ballot measure was supposedly “aimed at restoring Roe and would [have prevented] a 1931 near-total ban on abortion from going into effect.

The group never stated the extreme reality of Proposal 3, which is projected to have passed. Opponents of the measure said it would allow for abortion up until birth, and it was written in a vague and confusing way, leaving room for dangerous interpretation.

Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children says on its website:

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU’s amendment would radically distort Michigan’s Constitution to create a new unlimited right to abortion, which would spill over and affect many other issues. This poorly-worded amendment would repeal dozens of state laws, including our state’s ban on tax-funded abortions, the partial-birth abortion ban, and fundamentally alter the parent-child relationship by preventing parents from having input on their children’s health.

Protect Kentucky’s Access employed a similar strategy, writing on its campaign website that “The rights of people to control their own personal, private medical decisions are under attack across the country — it’s no different in Kentucky. … Don’t let politicians restrict your freedom.” The Kentucky amendment did not pass but would have removed any protection for “abortion rights” from the state constitution.

In Kansas, field organizers for Kansas for Constitutional Freedom were even more sly, issuing a digital ad talking about how “Kansans don’t want another government mandate” without every mentioning abortion outright. The Kansas ballot initiative, which did not pass, also would have amended the state’s constitution to assert there is no right to abortion in the state.

Robert Blendon, a professor emeritus at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that pro-abortion groups avoided confronting abortion on its scientific and logical merits and focused on the personal freedom narrative instead because issues like gestational age limits are “a fiercely divisive topic,” Roubein wrote.

“The wrong message to get into is when is an abortion going to be available,” Blendon said. “The issue that appeals is, a woman has the right to make the decision, it’s not the role of federal or state government to make my decision.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, told Roubein that despite pro-abortion groups’ efforts to sterilize the issue for floating voters, “abortion is not like wisdom teeth removal.”

“In every pregnancy there are two patients, mother and child, and at least one of them is not intended to leave the abortion appointment alive,” Dannenfelser said.

Dannenfelser released a memo following the midterm elections in which she noted that the pro-abortion movement dumped “$391 million on abortion-focused TV ads alone during the general election, versus just $11 million on the GOP side, a 35:1 spending ratio.”

But rather than cowering to the left’s pro-abortion propaganda following a blunted “red wave,” Dannenfelser advocated for Republicans to go on “offense” on the issue of abortion to expose Democrats “as the true extremists.” She pointed to several successful GOP candidates, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Senator-elect J.D. Vance (R-OH), who have unashamedly and offensively tackled the abortion debate.

“As we head into the 2024 presidential cycle, we have a clear message for GOP presidential hopefuls. The 2024 election has to be about the GOP going on offense: exposing President Biden and the Democrats as the true extremists who don’t support ANY limits on abortion and contrasting it with a strong GOP pro-life agenda centered on national minimum protections for the unborn child and mothers either at the point in which they feel pain or when their heartbeat can be detected,” she said.  “GOP primary candidates may have different views on what is achievable, and we welcome that debate – and even more so welcome the debate in the general election setting.”


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