with Alexandra Ellerbeck
Republicans did better in House contests than expected — and that includes women who oppose abortion rights.
Pending the outcome of a few more races, antiabortion women in the House will more than double their ranks, from holding just 13 seats now to perhaps as many as 30 seats next year.
These women, all Republicans, will still be outnumbered about 3 to 1 by Democratic women in the House, who uniformly support abortion rights. But their victories came as a boon — and something of a surprise — to antiabortion activists who have long struggled to recruit female politicians sympathetic to their cause.
“Given all the prognostications about a blue wave, we didn’t foresee we would have a historic number of pro-life women,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a group that seeks to elect antiabortion candidates. “Our women are not just kind of pro-life, but really pro-life. It’s a new day where the Republican Party has completely embraced the issue.”
Groups spent heavily this year to elect antiabortion women – although most of the spending went toward Senate, not House, campaigns.
SBA List set its own spending record in the 2020 campaign cycle, investing $52 million mostly aimed at Senate races and the presidential contest. Its spending exceeded that of the Planned Parenthood, which announced a $45 million spend over the cycle.
Another major player in getting more antiabortion women to Washington was Winning for Women Action Fund, the first GOP super PAC dedicated to electing female candidates.
The political action committee formed in 2017 as a counter to Emily’s List — which works to elect abortion rights-supporting candidates — and aims to narrow the gap between Republican and Democratic women in public office. Winning for Women spent nearly $3 million supporting Republican female candidates, my colleague Paulina Firozi reports.
In one of House Republicans’ biggest victories, Michelle Fischbach ousted 15-term Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). Other female freshmen will include Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation in New Mexico; Cuban American journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, who defeated Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), President Bill Clinton’s former health secretary; and Stephanie Bice in Oklahoma, who will be the first Iranian American to serve in Congress.
Former congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.):
So far, 27 House incumbents and newcomers endorsed by SBA List and Winning for Women have won their races. They’re hoping to add three more, in races yet to be decided in Iowa’s 2nd District, New York’s 22nd District and California’s 39th District.
“This is the smashing success story of the 2020 congressional election cycle,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told Paulina.
Dannenfelser views it as a turning point for Republican women.