- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pro-life groups are trying to counter the millions of dollars that Planned Parenthood is pouring into Virginia’s political races, but it hasn’t been easy.

For one, few pro-life groups are able to match the level of spending that Planned Parenthood routinely commits to electing pro-choice politicians at the state and federal levels.

For another, it’s difficult to get out the pro-life message while being censored by powerful social media platforms.

That was what happened when the Susan B. Anthony List tried to promote a video advertisement on Twitter that equated partial-birth abortion to “killing babies.” Twitter told the pro-life group that advertisers are not allowed to use that phrase.

“In the 21st century, reaching people on platforms like Twitter is essential,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a letter to supporters on Tuesday. “But unfortunately, many of these big tech companies are run by pro-abortion advocates who censor pro-life speech from their platforms.”

The offending advertisement is a 30-second video that criticizes state Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat seeking re-election, for opposing all restrictions on access to abortion.

“Mark Herring is a pro-abortion radical,” the ad says. “Taxpayer-funded abortions, late-term abortions, abortions for underage girls without parental consent. Herring’s backers even want partial-birth abortion, barbarically killing babies as they’re being delivered.”

The advertisement began running on Twitter on Sept. 14 and was shut down on Sept. 25. During that period, the video created 1.2 million impressions on social media and was viewed 283,000 times.

The Susan B. Anthony List spent $60,000 on that ad and a 15-second video criticizing the Democratic nominee for Virginia governor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who also opposes restrictions on abortion.

The second advertisement, which was launched Monday and will run through Election Day on Nov. 7, does not use the phrase “killing babies.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has promised to spend $3 million on a field operation to elect Mr. Northam in the Old Dominion. Although it is more than the abortion giant spent to elect Terry McAuliffe as governor in 2013, it amounts to only 10 percent of what Planned Parenthood spent in the presidential race last year on behalf of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The money Planned Parenthood committed to Mr. McAuliffe was well-spent. The governor, who promised to be a “brick wall” against pro-life legislation, vetoed a bill in February that would have defunded the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, said the stakes in the gubernatorial race are high because Republicans hold majorities in the General Assembly. An election win for Republican nominee Ed Gillespie would tear down the brick wall blocking pro-life legislation, she said.

“The biggest thing that’s on the line is the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” Ms. Quigley said. “This is something that Gillespie has said he would support and something that’s garnered support nationwide. We want to see Virginia added to that list of 20 states that have banned abortion at 20 weeks.”

Although most polls have given Mr. Northam the edge in the race, a Monmouth University survey released last week found the Democrat trailing Mr. Gillespie 48 percent to 47 percent. Just last month, Monmouth had Mr. Northam leading by 5 percentage points.

The contrast between the candidates on the question of abortion could not be more clear.

Abortion rights activists threw their support behind Mr. Northam in the Democratic primary because his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, had voted to prohibit subsidized federal health care plans that cover abortions.

During the primary race, Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said Mr. Perriello “voted against the interests of Virginia women and families when he was in Congress and proudly sold himself as an anti-abortion candidate.”

“The choice is clear,” Ms. Keene said in a statement. “When it comes to protecting women’s health and reproductive rights, Ralph Northam is the champion Virginia families can count on.”

On the other hand, Mr. Gillespie is a staunch, pro-life Catholic who opposes taxpayer funding for abortion and has promised to sign legislation banning the procedure at 20 weeks of gestation.

“I would like to see abortion be banned because I think it is a taking of an innocent human life,” Mr. Gillespie said during the Republican primary race.

Ms. Quigley called the clarity on abortion in the governor’s race refreshing. She compared it to the third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Mrs. Clinton, where the topic of late-term abortion was front and center.

“The last time we saw that kind of clarity was during the presidential election, in the last debate where the very first question to come up was about abortion,” Ms. Quigley said. “Donald Trump accurately described late-term abortion as something that happens in this country, that babies can be aborted all the way up until birth. Hillary dug in her heels on the pro-abortion position, and that was very clarifying for voters.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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