By Marjorie Dannenfelser

Guest Opinion

What a difference a year makes.

A little over a year ago, in the spring of 2013, the prospects for the right to life movement seemed dim.

Pundits from across the political spectrum were touting the triumph of Planned Parenthood’s “war on women” and speculating that social issues, namely abortion, had become a permanent liability for any candidate willing to take a public stand.

But then something remarkable happened. On June 18th, almost exactly one year ago, pro-life leaders in Congress — men and women — rejected the counsel of despair, went back on offense, and turned the “war on women” on its head.  With the full support of the Susan B. Anthony List and other groups, pro-life leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives embraced an idea to convert the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act into national legislation.

This legislation and the reality behind it — that our nation has some of the most extreme and permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world — put us back on offense. It’s not hard to see why. Last year, five major national polls all revealed that a majority of Americans — women in higher numbers than men — support this compassionate, common sense legislation to stop late abortions more than halfway through pregnancy. When the bill hit the House floor, female pro-life champions like Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Virginia Foxx led the charge against a pro-choice minority forced to defend a barbaric practice.

It was a clear victory. And one that pro-life Republicans can replicate at the ballot box in the midterm elections, if they stay on offense.

The Pain-Capable legislation, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks — more than five months — stands in resolute opposition to the Democratic Party platform of taxpayer funded abortion on-demand, up to the moment of birth. That plank itself is grossly out of step with rank and file Democratic voters as well as state level candidates. Polls have shown that the five-month measure enjoys the support nearly half of all self-identified Democrats.

The Pain-Capable legislation has been approved by 13 state legislatures, easily passing both houses in West Virginia with strong Democratic majorities, though the state’s Democratic governor issued a veto dangerous to his own and his party’s future.

The bill is also awaiting final passage in South Carolina, where five state senate Democrats crossed over to support it, recognizing the moral and political potency of the issue.

This issue is a winner for the GOP, and they are taking notice. Last month, the Republican National Committee adopted its own resolution endorsing the Pain-Capable measure and resolving to pursue this legislation at the federal and state level.

Abortion will play a key role in at least three races that will determine the makeup of the U.S. Senate. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana have woeful records on the issue and hail from decidedly pro-life states — in each case, leaving an important opening for pro-life Republicans to go on the attack.

Arkansas, for example, has its own 20-week (and 12-week) abortion limit, but Mark Pryor has refused to go on the record regarding the federal bill. National Review tracked him down earlier this year and wrote that he “looked at [the reporter], sort of smiled, said nothing, and kept walking.”

Mary Landrieu has also stumbled. Landrieu recently labeled a bipartisan, female-led effort to protect women from unscrupulous abortion practices a “shame.” She also dismissed the Pain-Capable measure saying that it is “not the norm” for babies born at five months to live outside the hospital. Voters in her heavily Catholic, heavily pro-life state see this for what it is: cowardice.

If pro-life Republican candidates want to win in November, they will need to be unlike Sen. Landrieu. Boldly standing up to defend the unborn and their mothers is a winning strategy.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of more than 365,000 pro-life Americans dedicated to pursuing policies and electing candidates who will reduce and ultimately end abortion. The SBA List emphasizes the education, promotion, mobilization and election of pro-life women. 

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