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Abortion Debate Driving Election Spending in California

Social issues might be taking a back seat to health care and the deficit in a number of national races, but not so in California’s Senate race between Sen.

Katharine Tate
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Sep 24, 2010

Social issues might be taking a back seat to health care and the deficit in a number of national races, but not so in California’s Senate race between Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. The Sunlight Foundation, which has undertaken a new project of tracking all independent expenditures (IE) made in the lead up to the 2010 election, [reports](http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/abortion-issues-dominate-independent-expenditures-california-sen/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+SunlightFoundationReportingGroup+(Sunlight+Foundation+Reporting+Group\)) that 87 percent of the IEs made in the race thus far have come from groups that advocate on abortion issues:

Among these two candidates, pro-life groups so far have spent $186,000, while pro-choice spending amounts to $41,000, according to a review of our independent expenditures database.

The pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony List, has spent the most money on this issue in that race so far. They’ve invested $166,100 in buying web ads and paying for phone calls in support of Fiorina. They’ve also campaigned against Boxer with Google advertisements, spending $20,000. The National Right to Life committee spent $173 dollars for a newspaper ad supporting Fiorina, while the pro-choice group NARAL spent $38,700 opposing Carly Fiorina with print advertisements. NARAL has also spent $3,480 sending out print materials supporting Boxer.

Nationwide, the Susan B. Anthony List has spent over $465,000 on IEs to support four Republicans and attack seven Democrats, as well as launching a bus tour across Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania to make misleading attacks on pro-life House Democrats who voted for comprehensive health reform earlier this year. (The group claimed the House Democrats had effectively voted for federal funding of abortion, even though this is not the case.)

California would seem like a strange place for these groups to be launching a social-issues based campaign. A socially liberal state facing a massive fiscal crisis would seem more receptive to a candidate who touted their fiscal over their social conservatism. But groups like SBA List are energized over Fiorina’s strong anti-abortion views, which she successfully employed in the primary to propel herself over a tea party backed candidate:

In its campaign material, the SBA List calls Fiorina the candidate whom anti-abortion activists have “been waiting for since the day Barbara Boxer was elected.” The reason, [SBA President Marjorie] Dannenfelser said, is that Fiorina would shatter a stereotype — that successful women, naturally, have to be in favor of abortion rights.

“If you were a strong woman in politics or corporate life,” Dannenfelser said, “most people assumed you were going to be pro-choice. That’s a fading stereotype, but apart from Sarah Palin there are not many prominent women who are challenging it yet. We hoped Elizabeth Dole could do that — she was pro-life, but she wasn’t very vocal about it.”

While it helped Fiorina win the primary, such a stance makes her path to a general election victory in California all the more difficult.

Katharine Tate | I’m a native of Massachusetts, where I earned bachelor's degrees in Health: Science, Society, and Policy and Sculpture from Brandeis University. I enjoy assisting and inspiring women in all aspects of their lives, and I consider myself a partner in their OB an GYN treatment. I particularly enjoy forming relationships with young women and assisting them in determining their healthcare needs and goals. I love to travel, create metal and fiber art, cook, and spend time outside. Also, I’m fluent in both German and American Sign Language.


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