To help draw women to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign, Planned Parenthood’s national political arm is preparing to spend $3 million to launch its biggest voter mobilization effort ever in North Carolina.
“It’s the most important state in the country for us because of essentially what’s at stake,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Votes, a division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Richards visited Raleigh on Monday to launch the organization’s “Women are Watching” campaign for the 2014 election.
Women are expected to play a key role in the Senate race between Hagan and House Speaker Thom Tillis – and the Washington-based women’s rights organization is hoping to help sway them. It is just one of many outside groups expected to play a role in the state’s high-profile race.
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“North Carolina is a moderate state. The positions that both Mr. Tillis has taken and some of the decisions by the state legislature are really out of step with where mainstream North Carolinians are,” Richards said in an interview. “So for us this is an important state to make sure women know what is at stake in November and the differences between these two candidates.”
Tillis’ legislative record is a particular focus. Richards highlighted legislation that Tillis supported that imposed stricter rules on women seeking an abortion, a measure struck by the courts to require a narrated ultrasound and a 2013 measure to limit insurance coverage and toughen regulations on clinics. The state legislature also attempted to block funding for Planned Parenthood’s clinics.
In the Republican primary for Senate, Tillis also took a stance in favor of a so-called “personhood amendment” to give fertilized eggs legal protection, a move that may prevent some forms of birth control depending on how it is written.
“For us, having him really push through really the most extreme restrictions on women’s access to reproductive care in the state of North Carolina I think shows what an enormous contrast there is between him and Sen. Kay Hagan,” Richards said.
“This is a record he’s going to have to run on,” she added. “These are positions he’s taken, I believe, for political purposes, and he’s going to have to answer for them.”
A Tillis campaign spokesman was not immediately available for comment. Tillis received the endorsement of the anti-abortion National Right to Life in the primary campaign.
Richards compared her organization’s effort to what it did in the 2013 governor’s race in Virginia, where Planned Parenthood spent big on television ads and mobilizing voters. It hopes to capitalize on efforts through the “Moral Monday” protests to highlight these issues
“Our efforts are not going to be dumping tons of money on the airwaves,” she said. “We are and we have and we will engage in direct voter contact, knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to women about what’s at stake.”