Why did pro-abortion President Barack Obama defeat pro-life candidate Mitt Romney even after compiling a pro-abortion record that is at odds with the views of most Americans on abortion and abortion funding?
The answer appears to be because the nation’s biggest abortion business ran away from the issue of abortion during the election — spending millions of dollars to focus voters’ attention on the issue of women’s health — even though Romney didn’t oppose legitimate women’s health funding.
Planned Parenthood officials are admitting that they were able to get President Obama another term in the White House by shifting the subject of the abortion debate from abortion itself to so-called reproductive health. Officials with the abortion giant knew that if voters were scared into thinking Romney was ready to take away their access to women’s health care outside the context of abortion, that they would be frightened enough to vote for Obama.
That is the thrust of a new article in the Washington Post examining the abortion company’s election efforts.
Planned Parenthood pulled this off, pollsters and strategists say, with a two-pronged strategy. First, it turned Mitt Romney’s words against him. Then the group used algorithms to identify a group of 1 million female voters, largely in swing states, who were particularly receptive to the group’s message.
Planned Parenthood got an inkling that reproductive health could be a much bigger issue than abortion back in February, when a heated fight broke out over the health-care law’s requirement that all employers include contraceptive coverage in their insurance.
“This would be an election where we could seize the opportunity,” says Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, who worked for the group.
Planned Parenthood started with focus groups in the spring, trying to figure out how much voters knew about Romney’s positions on women’s health issues. The answer seemed to be: not a lot.
“Women did not know about Romney’s position on women’s health,” says Molly O’Rourke of Democratic polling firm Hart Research, who worked on those groups. “To the extent they made a guess, there were a lot of wrong assumptions. They knew him as a businessman and not particularly strong on these issues.”
After that, O’Rourke and her team began testing out what messages worked best to define Romney. They would put up online ads that had personal messages or ones that leveraged Planned Parenthood as an authority on women’s health.
What worked best, it turns out, were using Romney’s words themselves. The debates from the Republican primary gave them a number of options to choose from, including, “I’ll cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. We’re going to get rid of that,” and remarks that he would be “delighted” to sign legislation that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
After coming to the realization that abandoning abortion and campaigning on the false notion that Romney opposed women’s health care, Planned Parenthood set out to drive that message home to women voters who were shaky on whether or not to re-elect Obama. The scare tactics worked.
Figuring out the best message was only half the puzzle; Planned Parenthood had to figure out who would be most receptive to their ideas. For that, they turned to micro-targeting, identifying 1 million female voters who were likely to support legal abortion and the health law’s contraceptive mandate.
The group spent about $15 million this year, more than tripling the $4 million it spent in 2008. It wanted to make sure those dollars were targeting the voters who would be open to their message.
“Those were the women that we were going to relentlessly target over and over and over again between June and November,” says Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens.
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Polling after the elections showed Planned Parenthood’s fear campaign worked — as 64 percent of all voters and 69 percent of women voters recall seeing its message that Romney supposedly opposed health care for women. Never mind that it’s not true and that pro-life advocates, like Romney, want federal funding for the abortion giant taken away because they don’t want to fund a business that does more than 330,000 abortions annually.
The lessen the pro-life movement needs to learn is that it must ramp up its efforts of explaining why Planned Parenthood should be de-funded and it must more quickly come to the defense of its candidates who support de-funding to accurately show them as friends of unborn children and women both.