ATLANTA — Abortion-rights groups invested heavily and lost in Tuesday night’s runoff special election for a Georgia House seat, and pro-lifers maintain the outcome proves the futility of the pro-abortion agenda.
In the June 20 special election to replace former congressman and now HHS Secretary Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Republican candidate Karen Handel was victorious, holding off Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff. She received 52% of the vote to his 48%.
“I think that this is really encouraging for pro-life candidates,” Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told CNA Wednesday of the race in the Atlanta suburbs. “Planned Parenthood has just suffered another humiliating loss.”
Ossoff ran on arguably a moderate fiscal platform, with ostensibly mild rhetoric, promising to fight wasteful spending and bring more tech jobs to the Atlanta metropolitan area and vowing to work with Republicans on areas of agreement.
However, from the start of the abbreviated campaign, he did zero in on Handel’s opposition to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, stating that “with all due respect to Karen, I think her record on women's health issues is lacking,” according to WXIA local news.
On the matter of abortion, he cast himself as a defender of a woman’s right to choose. “I would never disparage anyone who has differing views on the issue,” he said, as reported by WXIA, adding that “it’s precisely that complexity at the ethical and medical level that makes it unacceptable for federal bureaucrats to be getting between women and families and their doctors.”
Handel, meanwhile, was vocally pro-life. She was previously the vice president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that raises breast cancer awareness and funds research and which is also a prominent funder of Planned Parenthood.
Years ago, the foundation temporarily cut its grants to Planned Parenthood, citing Congress’s investigation into the organization. The investigation was launched over concerns that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding might be used for abortions and that it allegedly did not report suspicious cases of sexual abuse of minors.
After a widespread backlash in the media, Susan G. Komen quickly backtracked and promised to continue funding Planned Parenthood. Handel then resigned from the foundation.
Ossoff focused on this in a campaign ad, attacking Handel for trying to cut off Planned Parenthood funding and falsely claiming that Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screenings. A moderator corrected Ossoff on this claim in a recent debate; Planned Parenthood provides referrals for screenings, not the screenings themselves.
Planned Parenthood’s political arm bragged of Ossoff’s strong support on its website. He had promised to be “an unyielding defender of Planned Parenthood” and had insisted that “my commitment to reproductive health and family planning, as essential to the health of this community, is very strong.”
Abortion-rights groups poured cash into the race. Planned Parenthood was the second-largest contributor to Ossoff’s campaign, with $820,000, behind only the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The National Abortion Rights Action League ran a six-figure onslaught of video ads, phone calls and mail outreach in the last days before the election, hoping that accusations of Handel being “extreme” in her opposition to Planned Parenthood would resonate with voters.
Susan B. Anthony List was also active in the race, reaching “65,000 inconsistent voters who are pro-life through mail, phone calls and digital advertising” and pointing to Ossoff’s “extreme pro-abortion agenda.”
Ultimately, Handel won the day by four percentage points, in a district that Price won by 23 percentage points last election cycle. The seat has not been held by a Democrat since 1979.
The race was the single most expensive House race in history, with spending at $56 million.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, insisted that promoting abortion rights continues to be a losing issue for Democrats in states outside of the Northeast and the West Coast.
“Any time you do that in a pro-life district, you risk alienating voters who might otherwise vote for you,” she told CNA.
“We need to be helping people, not spending $25 million on an election that we’ll lose,” she added, referring to the record-setting level of campaign spending for a single House race.
“What are we doing to promote helping those in need?” she asked. “We’ve lost our focus on the little guy.”
The outcome of the election proves that “extreme pro-abortion positions” are losing, Quigley said. She pointed to a recent Susan B. Anthony List poll of voters in states that are considered to be battlegrounds for 2018 Senate races, saying that a majority of voters in select states opposed taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.