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Pro-life group criticizes GOP failure to make party's pro-life stance clear during midterms

Marjorie Dannenfelser
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, speaks during a press conference at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, June 21, 2016, in New York City. |

A national pro-life grassroots advocacy organization criticized Republican strategists for failing to make the party's position on abortion clear during the 2022 midterm elections, citing it as a potential reason for some of the party’s losses this election cycle. 

During a Wednesday press conference and in a memo released the same day, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser outlined what the GOP's strategy should be moving forward from election day.

Joining her during the conference was SBA Pro-Life America political strategist Frank Cannon.

"The simple takeaway is the simple political lesson that we've learned many times over," Dannenfelser said. "And that is that we win when we take a position that is popular and clear and confident, and we contrast that position with our opponents." 

In September, SBA Pro-Life America disclosed that it would spend $78 million during the midterm election cycle to reach at least 8 million voters via door-to-door campaigning, voter mail and media advertisements.

Dannenfelser praised candidates she thought faired well, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senator-elect Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Senator-elect J.D. Vance, R-Ohio. 

Despite running in competitive states, Dannenfelser said candidates like DeSantis and Kemp, who signed legislation protecting pain-capable preborn children and a law restricting abortion once a heartbeat is detected, respectively, performed well.

DeSantis beat his Democratic challenger, Charlie Christ, by nearly 20%, and Kemp defeated his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, by nearly 8%. 

Dannenfelser said that the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade this summer has made it "impossible" for candidates to ignore the abortion issue. She believes that candidates like Mehmet Oz, a Republican who ran for Senate in Pennsylvania, lost because they assumed the issue would "go away." 

Grading the candidates SBA endorsed based on their performances during the midterms, Dannenfelser said she would award A-pluses to Desantis and Rubio, praising their pro-life leadership. Regarding Oz, Dannenfelser said that Pennsylvania voters already gave him a "failing grade." 

"Even though we wanted him to win and we broke our backs trying to help him to win, he did a very poor job of saying what he would do if he were elected for the people of Pennsylvania on the life front," Dannenfelser told The Christian Post. 

Dannenfelser also awarded an A-plus to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., praising him for introducing the 15-week abortion ban in September. She claimed the bill answered the question of what Republican candidates' answer should be when asked about the party's stance on abortion. 

"It gave the candidates a concrete backstop, a concrete thing to say when they were attacked on positions they did not hold and said, 'no, this is the position,'" Dannenfelser said.

"The position of the 15-week bill, the exceptions that it holds. This is how it's written. So what [Democrats are] saying is not true." 

During the election cycle, the Democratic Party and liberal entities released various advertisements on the issue, accusing Republicans of trying to prosecute women for having abortions.

Dannenfelser noted that the opposing side spent $468 million on abortion-related advertisements, whereas the Republican party focused its campaign advertising on inflation.

Cannon highlighted that candidates cannot be silent in the face of advertising, claiming that if an opponent launches an attack, politicians need to decide whether to respond to it within 48 hours.

Cannon told CP that Republicans relied too heavily on highlighting President Joe Biden's failures instead of articulating what the party represents. 

The political strategist agrees that many Republican leaders were "particularly bad" on the life issue. 

Cannon praised Rubio for openly talking about the 15-week ban and Vance, the Republican who won Ohio's open Senate seat, for providing a clear position on abortion. 

As The Ohio Capitol Journal reported last month, during his debate with Democrat Tim Ryan, Vance flipped the issue on his opponent, claiming he supported "abortion without limits." Vance advocated for a minimum standard, supporting a measure like Graham's 15-week ban. 

Moving into the 2024 presidential election cycle, SBA Pro-Life America encouraged the GOP to prevent their opponents from mischaracterizing their views on abortion. 

"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," the group wrote in its memo. 

"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."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com.

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