Planned Parenthood launches 2020 initiative with endorsements, 5-figure ad buy

Planned Parenthood launched an unprecedented electoral effort for the organization, warning on Thursday that the 2020 elections could affect matters of "life and death" for many in the country.

That message came as part of a five-figure ad buy the organization plans to roll out in key battleground states as it continues to fight Republicans on key abortion restrictions. The WeDecide2020 is the group's most ambitious effort yet as it plans to spend at least $45 million to reach five million voters before the election.

"Our country is at a crossroads, but now it’s time for us to reclaim our power. In 2020, we’re fighting back and electing reproductive champions up and down the ballot — because our futures depend on it," said Jenny Lawson, executive director for Planned Parenthood Votes.

The operation will include everything from grassroots organizing and building its volunteer base to polling and paid advertisements. It will focus on nine key swing states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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Starting early, Planned Parenthood says it will mobilize its 13 million voters for the program's launch in January. Thursday's launch included a website complete with a congressional scorecard, a full list of endorsements for congressional races, and overviews of presidential candidates' positions. The rollout also features an ad with women denouncing efforts to restrict abortion access and other services provided by the organization.

"Can I be blatantly honest? My life is at stake in this next election," one speaker said. Another followed: "It is a matter of life and death to have access to quality health care."

The unprecedented spending likely came in response to a wave of state-level laws restricting abortion in addition to what pro-choice advocates say is a serious assault on the organization. Pro-life activists have claimed they are literally trying to save lives by imposing restrictions like the heartbeat bill, which would prohibit abortions after a doctor can detect a heartbeat.

Planned Parenthood responded to pro-life measures with a long list of legal challenges -- approximately 40 open cases, according to its most recent annual report -- and was able to salvage Missouri's last abortion clinic amid restrictive legislation.

Catherine Glenn Foster, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life, told Fox News she hoped Planned Parenthood would fail. Her organization fights for state-level restrictions that would regulate activities by clinics like Planned Parenthood.

"Planned Parenthood is America's deadliest nonprofit," she said. "We can only hope that the $45 million that Planned Parenthood is pumping into this election cycle will produce the same results that their political engagement did four years ago, and return the most pro-life administration in American history to office alongside a pro-life Congress.”

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Planned Parenthood's website lists abortion access, birth control, health equity, and sex ed as some of its top issues. It also focuses on funding for the organization, which has been threatened by state and federal initiatives -- including Title X funding, which the group severed over a so-called "gag rule" on abortion referrals.

Pro-life advocates have long complained that federal funding for Planned Parenthood has allowed the organization to pour more resources into abortion. And for years, Congress has debated revoking funding for the organization.

Planned Parenthood's new initiative is sponsored by its political arm -- Planned Parenthood Action Fund -- which has donated overwhelmingly to Democrats.

Planned Parenthood announced in December it was spending at least $1 million in order to pressure Republican senators into opposing the Trump administration's so-called "gag rule" for family-planning clinics. The organization reportedly received about $60 million in funds from the program. The multimedia campaign is expected to target Sens. McSally, R-Ariz., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C. -- all of whom are up for election in 2020.

McSally responded by accusing the organization of attempting to protect its "business model."

"Senator McSally is focused on providing access to actual health care for women all across Arizona, while Planned Parenthood is only focused on protecting their business model," her campaign manager told Fox News.

Pro-life organizations like Susan B. Anthony List are likely to ramp up their advocacy on the issue in the months before the election. In 2018, the group deployed an army of canvassers into states like Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Indiana -- knocking on at least 1.5 million doors before the elections.

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Planned Parenthood's launch came just before the March for Life on Jan. 24, when 100,000 pro-life activists are expected to descend on Washington, D.C. in order to denounce the practice. They'll likely call on lawmakers to defund the organization as well.

According to its annual report, it performed a record number of abortions and received a record amount of taxpayer funding. Released at the beginning of January, the annual report shows the group received $617 million in taxpayer funds for the fiscal year ending in June. That number represented roughly 37 percent of its overall funding and about a 9 percent increase from the previous year.