January 21, 2014 — Abortion rights are an "unexpectedly animating issue" in the 2014 election cycle, as both Democrats and Republicans strategize about how the debate could help their party win control of Congress, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, abortion restrictions are becoming the "focus of debate" in key congressional races -- such as those in North Carolina and Colorado -- where the outcome could help tilt control of the U.S. House or Senate.
According to the Times, Republicans at both the state and federal levels are working to advance antiabortion-rights legislation by framing the issue in an "economic context," which they hope will help link the issue to their opposition to the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).
Republicans in some states are arguing that the ACA allows the use of public funds for abortion coverage, and GOP members of the House are working to pass legislation (HR 7) in the coming weeks that restricts abortion coverage under the ACA.
Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs for March for Life, said, "For a lot of [GOP] members politically [abortion] ties into the issue they want to be talking about this election, which is Obamacare."
Likewise, Jeff Jimerson -- an organizer for a petition in Oregon that would ban the use of state funds for abortion in most situations -- said, "We don't make this a pro-life thing ... This is a pro-taxpayer thing. There are a lot of libertarians in Oregon, people who don't really care what you do, just don't make me pay for it."
Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to boost female voter participation in the mid-term election -- which typically draws lower voter turnout, especially among women -- by portraying their GOP counterparts as "callous" on women's health issues, the Times reports.
According to the Times, Democrats have built targeting models that predict an individual voter's position on women's health issues. This strategy helped the party in a recent gubernatorial win in Virginia, as well as electoral victories in 2012.
For 2014, Democrats hope that campaigning around abortion restrictions in North Carolina and other key states could help them make the same sort of orchestrated attacks that propelled their win in Virginia.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said, "You have lower turnout [during midterm elections], and a lot of drop-off voters are women. So in a lot of ways, making sure women are aware and voting is important" (Peters, New York Times, 1/20).