What Exactly Does the Susan B. Anthony List Stand For? Certainly Not for Women


In 2010, pundits declared it “The Year of the Woman” yet somehow by the end of the political cycle there were fewer female congresswomen than ever before.

The 2010 cycle was also the first cycle of major participation and candidate support by the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action group that initially focused on electing “pro-life women to office.” It’s a mission that they seemed to have strayed from by the mid-2010 cycle, backing Republican male candidates against female candidates who were pro-choice, or male candidates who were pro-life but were Democrats or, even in one case, a male Republican against a female pro-life Democrat.

Since then, the SBA List seems to take its namesake’s desire to get women into political office… lightly. Rather than focusing on promoting women, or promoting pro-life candidates, they are now a “pro-life women’s group” that supports Republican candidates, regardless of who their challengers are. 

The final transformation seems most obvious when you look at their most recent round of endorsements. The SBA has announced support for Republican Senatorial candidates Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Pete Hoekstra in Michigan, and Rick Berg in North Dakota.

Of these races of interest, SBA is backing two candidates running against Democratic female rivals (Sen. Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota), and one candidate challenging a male Democrat who identifies as pro-life. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly considers himself “committed to protecting life at all stages,” and helped to craft and support the Stupak amendment denying abortion insurance coverage in the Affordable Care Act. He has received a 20 percent rating with NARAL Pro-Choice America during his time in the House, with his only “positive” vote one against letting hospital emergency rooms allow women to die rather than receive a life-saving abortion. But again, just as in 2010, the SBA is targeting anti-choice Democrats who voted for health care reform by claiming it was an “anti-life” vote, even with the denial of coverage for abortions pasted onto it.

“In 2010 Joe Donnelly was one of the ‘pro-life’ Democrats led by Bart Stupak who betrayed their principles and constituents by voting for Obamacare, the largest expansion of abortion since Roe….Votes have consequences and it’s time to send Joe Donnelly home like the rest of those representatives who failed to stand up with the unborn and pro-life taxpayers.”

That the SBA List is supporting male, Republican candidates in order to either defeat female challengers or sitting female incumbents who support a woman’s right to choose is not so surprising, although claiming that Susan B. Anthony’s fictitious “pro-life beliefs” means she’d rather have anti-choice men in office than pro-choice women seems a little presumptuous. But by repeatedly endorsing Republican candidates to defeat pro-life incumbent Democrats, the group makes it clear that despite the historical significance of their name, their real mission is party affiliation.

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