Obama a Boon for Antiabortion Groups. For Now.

Antiabortion groups report higher fundraising and membership under President Obama.


By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Great Politico story today about Barack Obama being a boon to antiabortion fundraising and recruitment efforts, even as the president has pledged to moderate the Democrats' traditional stand in favor of abortion rights by working to reduce the need for abortion. The key nuggets:

Activists report a noticeable spike in activity as Obama moves to defend and expand a woman's right to choose an abortion—causing anti-abortion voters to mobilize in ways never needed during the Bush administration. So far this year: —The Susan B. Anthony List says its supporters sent more anti-abortion-related letters, e-mails and faxes to Obama and lawmakers in the first quarter alone than during each of the last two years. —The American Life League reported a 30 percent uptick in donations over last year. —Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., an anti-abortion Democrat who campaigned vigorously for Obama, has received more mail on abortion than on any other issue in 2009, spokesman Larry Smar said. . . . —And Americans United for Life plans to expand its plans to expand its staff in Washington and, after the post-election crash, recently upgraded its computer system to handle the bump in online activism. [Just after Election Day, the group's computer servers crashed, unable to handle a flood of people seeking to sign an online petition urging Obama to "stand firm against abortion," Politico reports.]

On the one hand, this flurry of renewed activity on the right comes as no surprise. Obama is an abortion-rights proponent who arrived in the White House after eight years of an administration that did more than any other to further the antiabortion cause. Obama has promised a new way forward on abortion, but no one expected conservative antiabortion-rights groups to sign on.

Yet the rising chorus of antiabortion Obama opposition is a reminder that, so far, Obama's rhetoric around abortion and life issues has been only that. We won't know for a while—a couple of years or more—whether Obama ends up turning his abortion-reduction talk into policy and whether those policies actually work. By that time, the president will be running for re-election. If he has nothing to show for his rhetoric, his abortion-reduction vows will blow up in his face. Depending on the state of the economy and foreign affairs, we might have a much more culture war-style election than we did last year. In that situation, it would be hard for Obama to carry the post-partisan mantle.

But if Obama succeeds in implementing a successful abortion-reduction plan, the antiabortion groups that are now flourishing will have a lot of explaining to do. The stakes are very high here for both parties.

  • Follow Dan Gilgoff on Twitter.
  • Read more about abortion.