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Nation

National abortion foes strategize to oust backers of reform

| Friday, June 25, 2010

Anti-abortion activists in Findlay for their national convention said yesterday that they are charting a political strategy to repeal the health-care reform law in 2013.

Leaders of the National Right to Life Committee said they are targeting incumbents in Congress who voted for the health-care bill in an effort to elect a sympathetic majority by the 2012 elections. Committee leaders contend the law fails to provide sufficient safeguards against the use of public money for abortion and includes provisions that could result in the rationing of care.

"It's very, very exciting. Every week as we have primaries, it's almost like Christmas to me," said Karen Cross, the committee's political director.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, a freshman Democrat from Erie, however, said the movement might be targeting its most fervent advocates if it goes after pro-life Democrats who supported the bill.

The committee, which touts itself as the nation's largest grass-roots, single-issue group, is holding its annual convention in the Hyatt Regency at Pittsburgh International Airport, where 800 activists have gathered to network through Saturday.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, who supported the health-care bill and was credited with helping broker support in the House, dismissed the complaints.

"A fair reading of this bill by many experts, theologians and people in the pro-life movement saw that this was a good-faith and successful effort to separate public dollars from paying for abortion," Doyle said. "This is a health-care bill, not an abortion bill."

Dahlkemper voted for the measure only after President Obama signed an executive order barring the use of federal money for abortion. This week another anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, announced it would commit $300,000 to defeating Dahlkemper in the fall.

"Protecting babies has always been an issue near and dear to my heart," said Dahlkemper, a mother of five and grandmother of two. "I worked very, very hard to get the executive order."

Groups "like the Susan B. Anthony List — they're not fighting for babies; they're fighting for politics," she said.

Cross, however, said recent primaries are proof that incumbents who voted for the bill are in trouble.

"There is growing evidence the public is increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of this administration," Cross said.

The committee is eager to point out contrasts in Pennsylvania's Senate race, which pits pro-life Republican Pat Toomey against pro-choice Democrat Joe Sestak, she said.

The committee went on record this week as opposing the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Citing her writings on partial-birth abortion, the committee sent letters to senators urging them to oppose Kagan's confirmation.

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