Planned Parenthood, used to playing the villain in many conservative candidates’ campaigns, is launching its largest campaign offensive ever, according to Politico, with a plan to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states where reproductive rights are vulnerable. The organization will follow its playbook from last year’s successful Virginia gubernatorial campaign, combining ads focused on women’s health overall with on-the-ground voter outreach.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the women’s health provider, is specifically targeting Senate and gubernatorial races in states like North Carolina, which passed some of the most radical abortion restrictions in the country last year, and Texas, where gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) famously filibustered a law that has shuttered most of the state’s abortion clinics. Getting more pro-choice governors and state legislators into office could prove especially crucial to counteract the unprecedented onslaught of state-level bills restricting abortion and contraception access.
In response to these anti-choice efforts, pro-choice candidates and lawmakers are starting to embrace a “war on women” message — with encouraging results. Capitalizing on massive protests against abortion restriction bills, outspoken pro-choice voices like Davis have ascended to the national stage, while hard-line anti-choice candidates like Ken Cuccinelli and Todd Akin have seen their hopes dashed.
Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in toppling these radical candidates. After the 2012 election, in which Planned Parenthood spent $15 million, research showed that Republicans’ support of restrictive laws on abortion and birth control likely cost them the presidential election. Down the ticket, data from the Sunlight Foundation showed that Planned Parenthood was the most successful lobbying group in the 2012 election, having spent 98 percent of their campaign money on winning candidates.
Republicans, meanwhile, were left trying to quiet certain voices in the party in an attempt to change their anti-woman image.
Rather than simply react to Republican fumbles as they happen, Planned Parenthood’s involvement in this campaign cycle could change the conversation entirely. Planned Parenthood Action Fund head Cecile Richards told Politico they plan to prove candidates don’t need to campaign defensively on reproductive rights, but should proactively pitch women’s health care as part of the broader economic issue of women’s and family’s rights.