In an echo of the electoral battle between Tea Party groups and the establishment GOP, Senate candidates in Colorado and Georgia are being caught up in a long-simmering conflict between purists and pragmatists in the anti-choice movement.
Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado attracted national attention yesterday when he announced that he was reversing his previous support for radical and wildly unpopular anti-choice “personhood” laws. Personhood USA, the primary group pushing such laws, promptly responded with a press release declaring that "Cory Gardner has betrayed the Republican Party, his pro-life voters, and most importantly, unborn babies in Colorado” and (hilariously) insisting that Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election because he didn’t get behind personhood.
Now, the anti-choice site Life News is citing the Susan B. Anthony List's endorsement of Gardner in his previous congressional race to attack Personhood USA, accusing them of trying to sabotage the race. Reporter Steven Erkelt writes:
Unlike Harry Reid and his friends who control the Senate, Cory Gardner will give the pro-life movement another vote and the potential to actually pass legislation that will stop abortions and abortion funding. At a critical time when the rest of the pro-life movement is working in unison to win control of the Senate and stop abortion, Personhood USA should stop misleading pro-lifers about our pro-life candidates.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, anti-choice groups are also engaged in a public spat on strategy, linked to a contentious Republican Senate primary.
A brand new group called Georgia Life Alliance is reportedly challenging Georgia Right to Life, a prominent state anti-choice lobbying group that subscribes to the “all-or-nothing” strategy, for its spot representing Georgia within National Right to Life.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway writes that the public feud between the Georgia groups “has everything to do with the U.S. Senate race,” in which anti-choice absolutist Rep. Paul Broun is vying with Karen Handel, an anti-choice crusader who nevertheless supports legal exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of a pregnant woman – and has been endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List .
There’s an assumption in these quarters that this has everything to do with the U.S. Senate race. U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, is prominently featured on the current GRTL website, praised for his endorsement of the organization’s aggressive approach – which some critics have described as all-or-nothing.
Likewise, the group’s antipathy toward former secretary of state Karen Handel dates to the 2010 race for governor and beyond.
The major point of contention: The National Right to Life organization allows for exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape and incest. GRTL does not, and has insisted that no politician who endorses those exceptions can be considered pro-life.
Last June, Broun voted against a “fetal pain” abortion bill backed by House Republicans that would ban abortions after a fetus is 20 weeks old. He and Georgia Right to Life blanched when House Republican leaders inserted exceptions for rape and incest.
The vote last year on the national 20-week abortion ban pitted National Right to Life, which supported the ban even though it contained rape and incest exceptions, against Georgia Right to Life, which sided with Broun in saying it didn’t go far enough, and subsequently endorsed him for Senate.
Two other Georgia representatives in the race, Rep. Phil Gingrey and Rep. Jack Kingston, sided with the national group voted for the bill with the rape and incest exceptions, with Kingston saying, “As we live in this post Roe v. Wade world, the reality is that we have to play chess, not checkers."
In response to Georgia Right for Life’s breaking of ranks on the 20-week bill, RedState blogger Erick Erickson called for the formation of a rival Georgia group, a wish that has apparently come true this week.
UPDATE (3/27/14): Surprise, surprise: It turns out that Erickson was involved in the creation of Georgia Life Alliance, and will be on its board.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to clarify that Life News was citing Susan B. Anthony List's endorsement of Cory Gardner in a previous race.