AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The political arm of Planned Parenthood expects to spend $3 million to support Texas Democrats in the 2014 general election, a move that has raised concerns from anti-abortion activists about whether they can match that sort of money in a fight to attract women voters.
Cecile Richards, president of the national advocacy group Planned Parenthood Votes, said the effort aims to draw differences between Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott, the state attorney general, in the campaign for governor.
“When women have a chance to know the difference between candidates, they won’t vote for someone who is against them,” Richards told a Texas newspaper.
Davis became a national figure for Democrats in her 2013 filibuster against an abortion restrictions bill that eventually passed. Abbott has emphasized his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
Planned Parenthood organizers said they want an aggressive field program to reach more than 300,000 women through phone banks, door-to-door visits, direct mail, social media and radio and online advertising.
Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said it will be difficult for anti-abortion groups to keep pace with Planned Parenthood’s spending. According to state data, the state’s two largest anti-abortion groups, Texas Right to Life and Texas Alliance for Life, have spent about $450,000.
“This is a wake-up call for us, and I’m sure for other pro-life organizations,” Pojman said.
Planned Parenthood’s push is similar to its efforts in other states. The group spent nearly $2.5 million in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race, helping a Democrat unseat a Republican, and plans to spend $3 million in a North Carolina U.S. Senate race.
But Pojman questioned Planned Parenthood’s ability to rally votes in big numbers in Texas
“Planned Parenthood doesn’t have the grass roots to energize in the same way the pro-life movement can,” Pojman said.
Davis has mostly avoided the abortion issued on the campaign trail, seeking instead to broaden her image in terms of fighting for women’s health care. Abbott, meanwhile, has spearheaded efforts to defend Texas against lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions and cuts to Planned Parenthood’s state funding.
Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant, said the Planned Parenthood campaign could cut both ways for Davis.
While it could put the abortion spotlight back on Davis, it also would provide more resources in a race where Abbott has a 3-to-1 cash advantage.
“The campaign knows that talking about abortion is a net loser for her,” Mackowiak said. “These outside groups can focus on maximizing the pro-choice vote while Wendy stays above that.”