Planned Parenthood Plans $10 Million Boost for Democrats in North Carolina

Planned Parenthood Plans $10 Million Boost for Democrats in North Carolina

Aiming to bring the national fight over abortion access to a key battleground state, a political arm of Planned Parenthood will spend $10 million on organizing efforts in North Carolina this year, its largest-ever investment in a single state.

The money will pay for digital advertisements, new field offices and a canvassing operation concentrated in a handful of swing counties. The leaders of the group, Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic, say it plans to knock on more than one million doors through the end of 2024 to talk to voters about preserving abortion access.

Even though abortion is not explicitly on the ballot in North Carolina, Democrats are banking on the issue to animate the state’s competitive race for governor and, they hope, to galvanize voters to boost President Biden in the process. A Democratic candidate hasn’t won the state since 2008, and Mr. Biden lost it to former President Donald J. Trump in 2020 by just over a percentage point.

North Carolina is also the last state in the Deep South where abortion is still legal after six weeks of pregnancy, a fact Democrats have sought to highlight in underscoring the stakes for voters. The Republican nominee for governor, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, has endorsed a ban on all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — one he said he would push to pass if elected.

“As we head into November, all eyes are on North Carolina because abortion access across the entire region will be determined by the results of this election,” said Emily Thompson, the deputy director of Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic and spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes, the group’s national super PAC. “Our success is absolutely critical this year to protect abortion access and defend the bodily autonomy of every North Carolinian.”

Democrats and their allies are banking on Mr. Robinson’s incendiary past comments about abortion, combined with growing grass-roots momentum, to propel both Mr. Biden and Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general and the Democratic nominee for governor. Planned Parenthood’s political investment will also focus on 16 state House and Senate races, where Democrats need to win just one additional seat to break the G.O.P.’s supermajority.

Mr. Robinson has called abortion “murder” and said that when a woman becomes pregnant, her body no longer belongs to her. In 2012, he said on Facebook that he paid for his wife to have an abortion when she became pregnant while they were dating. He later called their decision to end the pregnancy a mistake.

In a statement, Mike Lonergan, a spokesman for Mr. Robinson, called Planned Parenthood’s organizing efforts part of the “same old playbook” that President Biden and Democrats have used to campaign on abortion, calling their stances “extreme and out of step with our state’s values.”

“Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is pro-life because of the painful and difficult experience he and his wife had, and his faith,” Mr. Lonergan said. “He’s said that as governor he would sign a heartbeat bill with exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger.” He added that Mr. Robinson “also wants to turn North Carolina into a destination state for life by doing more to support women that choose life, like improving our foster-care and adoption systems, and preserving access to I.V.F.”

Planned Parenthood’s community organizers have said that they will focus specifically on reaching suburban white women in the early months of their canvassing, arguing that they are among the most persuadable voters on the issue. The group has also hired organizers who will focus specifically on mobilizing young, Black and Latino voters. The first phase of its organizing began in earnest on Saturday, with a daylong training near downtown Raleigh that taught canvassers how to communicate to voters, in less-than-20-minute conversations, the ways that North Carolina’s politics are part of the regional battle for reproductive rights.

Other groups, pointing to the governor’s race and thin State House margins, have shifted their focus entirely to abortion messaging ahead of November’s elections. Janice Robinson, the North Carolina director for Red, Wine and Blue, a nonpartisan group that mobilizes women in the suburbs, said her group had identified abortion access as a top issue. She said her organization hoped to recruit at least 5,000 more new members in the state this year, powered in large part by a message focused on protecting abortion access.

“I feel North Carolina is at the is at the forefront of that fight” she said. “So we are prepared to fight with everything in us to stop what’s happening in North Carolina and we will not give up.”

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