President Trump sat at the Resolute Desk, looked at Marjorie Dannenfelser, leader of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, and pledged to get a federal ban on abortion “after five months” of pregnancy.
Ms. Dannenfelser’s Tuesday meeting in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence signaled the newfound prominence of her organization in the Trump era.
“We’re at this peak moment in the pro-life movement where we’re gathering up all our assets,” she told The Washington Times. “I want [Mr. Trump] to know we’re proud of him, supportive of him.”
Huddled in the Oval Office, the trio discussed the state of the pro-life movement and its goals, including the future of the federal circuit courts where their cause appeared to be “gaining a lot of strength,” Ms. Dannenfelser said.
She thanked the president for picking pro-life judges and the “fantastic” Mexico City policy, which stripped millions of dollars in aid from international groups that perform abortions.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence have reason to be thanking the pro-life group as well. Its members have contributed to the GOP’s electoral successes, helping the party maintain a Senate majority in 2018 and supporting the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices amid unprecedented opposition.
In the last three election cycles, the group has “gone on offense to win a pro-life Senate, a pro-life White House, and a pro-life Supreme Court,” according to the SBA List website.
Mallory Quigley, SBA List spokeswoman, said the group is looking to up the ante in 2020 ahead of what it views as the most important election yet.
Ms. Quigley said SBA List plans to spend $41 million in the 2020 election cycle, up from $28 million in the 2018 cycle. SBA List financially supports candidates through direct contributions, bundled checks and independent expenditure get-out-the-vote campaigns.
The group also plans to visit 4 million voters in the next year via 1,100-plus members canvassing the country, with a particular emphasis on Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, Ms. Quigley said. That’s up from 2016 when SBA List visited 1.4 million voters with 800 canvassers nationwide.
Ms. Quigley said SBA List’s reception in Washington has changed steadily since 2012 when she said then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not make a commitment to pro-life voters via SBA List, which Mr. Trump did in 2016. Mr. Trump’s signed commitment to defund Planned Parenthood, nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices, prevent taxpayers from funding abortions, and enact legislation ending late-term abortions was a “huge tool in our toolbox” during the 2018 campaign.
“I think that the Susan B. Anthony List and the pro-life movement have been steadily gaining in influence,” Ms. Quigley said. “We’ve been working to tell candidates, ‘Talk about this side, prepare to talk about life the way you would any other issue, speak from the heart.’”
In 2020, the group’s pitch to voters will include touting the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, and signaling that a pro-life Supreme Court is within reach. Mike Davis, former chief counsel on nominations to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Article III Project president, said SBA List was “key” in getting Republicans to fight the Democrats’ filibuster of Justice Gorsuch and in building conservative grassroots support for Justice Kavanaugh.
A Republican source involved with 2020 Senate races said SBA List has been a strong strategic partner in maintaining the Senate’s pro-life majority, particularly in 2018.
“Their efforts to turn out pro-life voters while persuading moderate voters that the left is too extreme on abortion were critical in key battleground states,” the Republican source said. “They deserve tremendous credit for GOP success at the ballot box that has led to more than 150 federal judges and two Supreme Court justices getting confirmed by the Senate.”
SBA List not only endorses and supports political candidates it deems viable, but it also works to eliminate those opposed to its agenda.
“We now have very strong political muscle, and when you do, it’s the difference between policy accomplishments and not,” Ms. Dannenfelser said. “[It’s] the political muscle that rewards our friends and [has] unelected people on the other side.”
SBA List has not shied away from throwing elbows in the early stages of various 2020 primary races. In Illinois’ 6th Congressional District last month, the group endorsed Jeanne Ives over former Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti in a Republican primary. Amid funding woes, Ms. Sanguinetti dropped out within a month of SBA List’s endorsement of her opponent, who previously lost a primary challenge to then-Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
SBA List’s growing clout nationwide and in Washington has made the group’s annual gala a popular stomping ground for ambitious conservative political types with designs on higher office. Mr. Pence addressed the gala in 2017, Mr. Trump followed in 2018, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressed the group this year.
Ms. Dannenfelser said at its founding in 1992 that SBA List identified a void in the pro-life movement’s ability to mobilize politically. Heading toward 2020, Ms. Dannenfelser said SBA List now has a serious ground game and legislative strategy and understands that “politics is ministry.”