Before any great sporting event begins, teams are chosen, made up of individuals who enthusiasts hope have the skills to win and the will to fight until the game is won. The same holds true in politics, even in an election year stripped of fanfare. The ground game of building a winning coalition has never been more important, especially for a pro-life movement well aware that reversing Roe v. Wade and returning the issue of abortion to the states is within reach.
To prepare for the day after Roe, Students for Life Action was formed not only to organize and advocate for life-related legislation as it is introduced but also to become engaged in choosing the team members who will be pivotal for success. To that end, we made the unusual decision to get involved in primary fights in state legislative races where the margins for defending the preborn are close. Once Roe is reversed, state legislators will be on the frontlines defending mothers and their pre-born infants.
With more than 1,240 chapters in all 50 states, Students for Life knew a few people to ask about a Vote Pro-Life First campaign. Formal (c4) nonprofit structures are being built as 55 SFL captains are in place in 33 states so far. In this cycle, SFLAction, sometimes partnering with Susan B. Anthony List, has already knocked on more than 50,000 doors and made more than 200,000 calls, fielding hundreds of student and staff.
This week Students for Life is launching a digital campaign, reaching out to a potential audience of 21 million under-30 “mushy middle” or potential pro-life non-voters nationwide, with a specific focus on 1.2 million in the swing states of Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Montana.
On campuses, Vote Pro-Life First and Sock the Vote campaigns will be launched, with options for digital engagement only for schools that have not gone back to traditional classrooms. The goal is not merely to hold a seat, but to hold accountable officeholders who failed to protect mothers and their pre-born children from a predatory abortion franchise, no matter what party they call home.
Last year in Arizona, a pro-life bill that would have sent $7.5 million to pregnancy resource centers to support mothers experiencing unexpected pregnancies failed because two pro-choice Republicans voted with the abortion lobby. One, Sen. Heather Carter (pictured, at left) , also has a history of missing key pro-life votes. Students knocked on 5,000 doors and make 35,000 calls, and when the election night dust had cleared, Carter lost to Rep. Nancy Barto by fewer than 1,500 votes.
In Kansas, SFLAction students organized three lobbying trips and made almost 2,000 calls to their legislators in support of the “Value Them Both” Amendment, which would have overridden a Kansas Supreme Court ruling granting the legislature authority to regulate abortion again. After Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the measure, Republicans had the votes to override her actions, but four Republicans refused to do so, including Rep. Jan Kessinger. So students returned to the state, reaching out to virtually all of the 4,000 voters in the district via text, phone, or at their doors, and Kessinger lost to Jane Dirks 58%-42%.
In Michigan, supporting a pro-life champion was the goal, and 5,000 voters were contacted in a race in which state Rep. Bradley Slagh handily defeated Mark Northrup. In defense of the most endangered of species — anti-abortion Democrats — SFLAction worked for pro-life Democrats including U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, and though victory eluded us in this round, pro-life champions should be confident that help is coming. In addition, we know that involvement in some of these races, even those that end in defeat, help hold back even larger margins in a state.
For example, SFLAction’s engagement in Virginia last year helped mitigate what could have been an even more tremendous shift. As I wrote on Townhall.com, consider that “state senator Bryce Reeves defeated an EMILY’s List-backed challenger, Amy Laufer, who received $500,000 plus in support from outside groups, compared to an SFLAction investment of $14,500. Senator Amanda Chase defeated a pro-abortion candidate backed by all the pro-abortion groups as well as Alec Baldwin, with triple digit financial support. And in an upset victory, Jen Kiggans defeated Delegate Cheryl Turpin in Virginia Beach.”
With the conventions as a backdrop, the goal must be to build a pro-life team. As the New York Times notes, the life issue activates voters in greater numbers than the pro-abortion position and cuts through a lot of noise.
Candidates who say they are pro-life must protect mothers and pre-born infants from a predatory abortion industry, advance common-sense health and safety standards, support adoption and foster reforms, work to limit abortions especially after the point in which viable babies suffer horrific deaths by abortion. And once in office, they need to show up to vote.
The Pro-Life Generation, now trained in pro-life conversion techniques and learning the mechanics of political engagement, are genuinely working to change hearts and minds, not just in hanging a piece of literature on someone’s door. With the goal of activating and engaging with first-time and newer voters, SFLAction makes an appeal that goes past partisanship, to the human rights issue of our day, with a clear call to action: “I hate abortion so much I’m willing to vote for a candidate I don’t like.”