Advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion issue are reporting a surge in fundraising in reaction to newly selected Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.
Last week NARAL Pro-Choice America had the highest grossing week since it began fundraising for the 2008 election, according to staffers, raising more than $120,000 from two e-mail alerts. Planned Parenthood also reported high fundraising numbers from e-mail appeals.
The same held true on the other side of the divide, where anti-abortion groups said Palin sparked an outpouring of money into their coffers. The Susan B. Anthony List, a group that helps promote female candidates who oppose abortion, said its weekly fundraising tripled last week.
“We haven’t even done a Palin-related ask yet,” said SBA president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “It’s just in the air.”
SBA says they are now on target to reach their $6 million yearly budget, a goal the group feared it would not reach before Palin was added to the ticket. McCain alone, says Dannenfelser, didn’t mobilize the anti-abortion grassroots.
“Giving has been depressed because he is not seen as advancing the cause. But she is,” said Dannenfelser.
While abortion has failed to galvanize voters over the past few election cycles, as issues like the war in Iraq, the economy, and immigration have dominated the debate, Palin’s nomination appears to have returned it to the front burner.
Already, Palin is proving to be a lightning rod on the issue.
On the website of Feminists for Life, of which Palin is a member, President Serrin M. Foster reports of “phones ringing off the hook” and “being inundated with requests for information and help.”
On Wednesday, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler created a storm of controversy and was forced to issue an apology after telling Politico that McCain had picked a running mate “whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion."
On the left, abortion rights groups report a flood of e-mails and calls from existing and new members who are alarmed by the prospect of a GOP ticket where both candidates would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, with a vice presidential nominee who supports abstinence-based sex education and opposes abortion in all cases unless the life of the mother is at stake.
“That’s a pretty good indication of how fired up people are,” said Beth Shipp, political director of NARAL. “It has energized our base.”
Likewise, groups that oppose abortion continue to cheer her nomination, thrilled that Palin has actually lived out her pro-life principles by giving birth to a child with Down syndrome.
“Her nomination makes my job a joy,” said Dannenfelser. “She really for us is the whole package. She’s the poster child.”
Still, abortion rights advocates believe Palin is a far easier target than either John McCain or George W. Bush, and began working the Palin angle within one day of her acceptance speech at the Republican convention.
“Gov. Palin had a good applause line last night about hockey moms and lipstick on pitbulls,” wrote NARAL in an e-mail appeal on the final day of the GOP convention. “We have an expression here, too: Dress it up any way you like, but the McCain-Palin rhetoric about women’s freedom and privacy is nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”
“It’s really incredible that Sen. McCain could find a woman farther to the right than he is on women’s health issues,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America. “Her positions are so extreme, that’s going to be a problem (for McCain) to explain.”
Bush, a recognized opponent of abortion rights, never directly called for the overturning of Roe. Rather, he addressed the issue in coded language targeted towards evangelcal voters.
Polling has shown that many voters think of McCain as moderate on issues of reproductive freedom, despite his support for overturning Roe v. Wade. That disconnect has made abortion rights advocates very nervous.
Palin, on the other hand, has made clear her opposition to abortion rights and there isn’t much confusion over where she stands.
“It didn’t take long to hunt down some of the more extreme remarks she’s made,” said Shipp. “We were out (with a statement) five minutes after her first appearance in Ohio.”
The focus on Palin comes as no surprise to abortion opponents.
“She will be the feature story in every direct mail piece that goes out,” says Dannenfelser. “She’s going to raise a lot of money for them, inadvertently.”