One of the country's largest pro-life groups has launched a campaign targeting Red State Democratic senators who helped kill legislation that would have cut down late term abortions.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports pro-life politicians, has launched a digital campaign tying Democratic senators facing re-election in states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 to support for late term abortions. On Monday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), and Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mt.) voted to block a 20-week abortion ban, while Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) abstained from voting. While the bill won a majority of senators, it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome filibuster, effectively killing the legislation. SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the senators need to be held accountable for their votes.
"The United States remains one of only seven nations in the world that allow cruel late-term abortions after five months of pregnancy," she said. "Shamefully, Senators Claire McCaskill, Sherrod Brown, Heidi Heitkamp, and Jon Tester voted to keep this horrific practice legal. Senators Bill Nelson and Tammy Baldwin didn’t even show up. They will be held accountable."
SBA List launched a series of websites targeting McCaskill, Tester, Heitkamp, and Brown as radical—each URL bears the candidate's last name next to "tooextreme.com"—on the issue of abortion. The campaign aims to use each senator's voting record to show that they are out of step with their Republican-leaning constituents, even as many candidates portray themselves as moderate Democrats.
"The voters deserve to know that their senators sided with abortion lobby extremists over their own constituents," Dannenfelser said. "They will each face political consequences for their role in blocking this compassionate, popular bill."
Not every Democrat voted to kill the bill in the 51-46 vote. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), and Bob Casey (D., Penn.), all of whom represent states Trump won, each voted in favor of breaking the filibuster. Their votes could be used to paint Tester, McCaskill, Brown, Heitkamp, Baldwin, and Nelson as more ideologically liberal than the moderate image they wish to project. Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy adviser with The Catholic Association, called their actions "political malpractice."
"Democrats from red states who just voted in favor of late-term abortions are radically out of step with their constituents, most of whom are repulsed by the idea of abortion past 20-weeks of pregnancy," Ferguson said. "These senators have just committed political malpractice and a tragic moral failure by endorsing the abortion of over 12,000 late-term babies annually."
While abortions in the first trimester remain popular with the American electorate, voters widely disapprove of abortion in the second and third trimesters. The 20-week ban falls within the middle of the second trimester and scientific studies have found that the developing baby can begin to feel pain at that point. A 2013 Washington Post poll found that a majority of Democrats support a 20-week ban. A January Marist poll found large majorities supporting limits on abortion, despite the fact that 51 percent of respondents identified themselves as pro-choice compared to 44 percent self-described pro-lifers. It found that 63 percent of voters support 20-week bans.
SBA List's own polling has found that 62 percent of voters in those states support the 20-week bill with solid majorities. North Dakota voters had the lowest level of support at 56 percent, while 67 percent of Ohio voters supported the measure, the highest of those states. Pro-life advocates say the campaign has a natural audience in those battleground states in 2018.
"This should not have been a difficult vote for anyone with a conscience," said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs with March for Life. "It is not a big leap to say those people vote and that pro-life groups will spend the next few months reminding voters where their senator came down on the issue."
SBA List has already launched get-out-the-vote operations in many of those elections. The organization says it has sent out more than 200 groups of canvassers since July 2017 with the hopes of mobilizing pro-life voters and appealing to traditionally Democratic voters with pro-life leanings, especially Hispanic and female voters. Those canvassers have visited more than 320,000 homes in Missouri, Ohio, Florida, and Indiana since July 2017.