October 15th, 2010
01:03 AM ET

Ohio ruling casts light on abortion as midterm issue

CNN's Dan Gilgoff filed this report:

A Democratic congressman from Ohio got a boost from his state's elections commission on Thursday in his campaign to prevent an anti-abortion group from running billboards attacking him for supporting the healthcare bill.

The decision by a three-member panel of the Ohio Elections Commission allows U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus to move forward with a complaint alleging that the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, is deliberately lying about his record when it says he supports government-funded abortion because of his March vote for healthcare reform.

The battle between Driehaus and a group of progressive Catholic supporters on the one hand and religious conservatives on the other is a reminder that abortion has become a key issue in the midterm elections in parts of the country, even as the economy and jobs remain voters' top concern.

Abortion has come to the fore in a handful of states where self-proclaimed "pro-life" Democratic lawmakers are facing allegations from conservative groups that their support for the healthcare bill legislated federally-funded abortion.

The allegations have surfaced in historically "red" House districts that turned "blue" during the Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008, with the election of Democrats who claimed to be moderate to conservative on issues like abortion.

Conservative groups allege that the healthcare bill funds abortion by allowing Americans to buy into government subsidized healthcare exchanges in which abortion is covered.

Progressive groups note that the bill requires abortion funding in such plans to come from private premiums. Conservatives have dismissed such claims of segregated funding as an accounting trick.

On Thursday, the Susan B. Anthony List denounced the ruling by the Ohio Election Committee's panel, which allows Driehaus to collect depositions to support his claim that the Susan B. Anthony List is knowingly distorting his record on abortion.

"In an act of desperation and fear, Rep. Steve Driehaus is attempting to use a criminal statute to silence his critics," said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. "It is a fact that Steve Driehaus has voted for a bill that includes taxpayer funding of abortion."

It's an allegation that Dannenfelser's group and allied organizations have raised in roughly a dozen races across the country.

"There are a number of Democratic members of Congress who are calling themselves pro-life, but it's hard to do that after voting for healthcare, which was the largest expansion of abortion we've seen," says Tom Minnery, senior vice president of CitizenLink, a conservative advocacy group connected to Focus on the Family that is also spending money this cycle.

Dannenfelser says her group plans to spend $6 million on political activities before Election Day next month, about a third more than it did in 2008.

Though the group is mostly targeting Democrats in the House whom it says is responsible for the bill's abortion provisions, it is also spending of hundreds of thousands to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Last week, the group announced it is partnering with other socially conservative outfits to spend $240,000 in TV ads "highlighting pro-abortion health care votes of so-called 'pro-life Democrats.'"

The ads target Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper and Indiana Rep. Joe Donnelly.

The conservative campaign against self-described "pro-life" Democratic lawmakers has spurred a handful of relatively new left-leaning faith groups to come to their defense.

In Ohio, a group called Catholics United released a letter this month signed by 36 Cincinnati clergy and lay leaders, including 11 Catholic nuns, denouncing allegations that Driehaus' healthcare vote begat government-funded abortion.

In Virginia, a related group, called the Matthew 25 Network, is launching a radio ad Monday on behalf of Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello - who has also come under attack by religious conservatives - that lauds his Christian faith and his values.

"These were folks who took a courageous stand on healthcare reform, who led the fight to make sure there was no abortion funding in the bill" said Catholics United Executive Director Chris Korzen of the Democratic lawmakers his group is seeking to help.

"We knew that conservative groups like Susan B. Anthony List would be after them," Korzen said, "And we wanted to make sure there was an organized presence to set the record straight."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Politics

soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Sara

    Im thinking here, as I read comments and the "Susan B. Anthony List" thing....ummmmm...She was an ABOLITIONIST had nothing to do with abortion folks. She died in 1906, I dont think abortion was a hot topic in 1906. Here in the Rochester NY area we learn of Susan B Anthony, Frederick Douglass, you know all those people who made a mark here. I still cannot find a thing, even at the Susan B Anthony website that mentions abortion.

    One more thing, my body my choice. Oh yes, I am a mom too.

    October 18, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  2. dfokin

    Здраствуйте Предлагаю обмен ссылками (постовыми) вашего блога religion.blogs.cnn.com с моим.
    Заранее благодарен за ответ.
    С уважением, Александр.

    October 15, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
    • Raison


      What's this? A declaration of war? Your shopping list? Did you get lost? Is someone hurt? Can you feel your legs?

      October 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Frank

      Is it midterm election time in Mother Russia, as well?

      October 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Eric G.

    Your beliefs shape your actions. When someone thinks their beliefs give them the right to control how others live their lives, they should not be offended when I demand that they be able to rationally and logically explain their beliefs. If their beliefs cannot withstand the scruitny of logical debate and they still want to control others based on those unproven beliefs, I then have every right to call them tyrants, because their actions would come to define the term.

    October 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Eric G.

      Well said...

      October 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
    • Bill

      Here Here ... very well said

      October 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
    • Raison

      @Eric G.

      Gee whiz! That is a great post! Like I have noticed before, you are like "NL" in that you are very insightful in your comments.

      October 16, 2010 at 6:45 am |
  4. dimc

    abortion is a wedge issue...the only way for the GOP to get out the vote of the little people they aim to exploit. Always has been and always will be. And federally-funded abortion was banned (out of Medicaid) by President Carter in the late '70's.. i'm sure most of you weren't born or too young to remember the outcry and his response, to quote, "Life is not fair." LOL

    October 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • dimc

      That's why we needed a crack (as opposed to powdered cocaine with higher legal penalties attached to the crack form) epidemic and the resulting private prison industry blossomed – this is not rocket science.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  5. Bill

    To All – Look when Eve handed Adam a little red apple and said eat we were all blessed/cursed with the ability to chose. Our choices determine what happens end the end. Even Jesus said to his followers "shake the dust off of your sandals". What I believe is mine and I will share it with anyone that wants to know, it does not matter if they believe or not. The one thing that will cause me to "shake the dust off of my sandals" is when some one tries to argue with me about my beliefs. That person is no different that any other shcool yard bully I have ever known.

    October 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Raison


      I don't like bullies either. They need curbing. You would fight to preserve the lives of children in your own way. I respect you for this, even though we might (I really have no idea right now) disagree on the details.
      Do what you can to help protect those who have no defense against what others would do to them.
      I will try not to argue with you right now, since you don't really seem too keen on the idea. 😀 Have a nice weekend.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Bill: I agree. Our choices have consequences. I don't buy into the story about the snake and the apple thing so much but that's my choice as well. But I disagree about arguing about your beliefs. If you choose to express your beliefs, and I disagree with them, I have every right to offer argument against them. I have tried to be civil thus far and not called your beliefs "BS" as you have called others' beliefs. You might reconsider your interpretation of who is being the bully in that scenario.

      October 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Bill

      Thank you Raison – I think we have the same goal.... but the question is does the nut go on the bolt or does the bolt go in the nut .... you choose first!!!! LOL

      Frogist – ou seem to be a very thin skinned individual. BS is used as a term of generalization. People have used that term for decades to mean a variety of things,.

      Yes you have every right to offer an argument, but again ... I don't have to argue the core of my self with you. It is none of your business. I will offer things that I think might help the discussion.. take them or leave them it is up to you.

      I want you to know that I sense a very keenmind here, but to me you seem to use it to prod people rather than resolve things. I hope you have a great weekend and I hope that my latest round of posts helps you to understand my point of view. I don't want nor do I need your acceptance or approval. It is meaningless unless some common ground is found.

      Sandal Time!

      October 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.