How Did a Virginia Conservative Activist Become the Star of a North Carolina Abortion Ad?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 25 2014 2:15 PM

How Did a Virginia Conservative Activist Become the Star of a North Carolina Abortion Ad?

Last month, in an episode of the podcast, I interviewed Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser about what her group was doing to prevent future abortion guests. SBAList was inviting pro-life candidates to training sessions where they had—my phrase, not hers—the stupid beat out of 'em.

"What's at the heart of it is a fear of addressing it in the hope that it won't come up," Dannenfelser told me. "We're 100 percent clear that it will come up. The best thing is one-on-one conversation—one-on-one conversation along the model of a murder board, preparing for a trial. That's what they deserve. It's throwing at you the question that I think is going to be the hardest in your campaign. It's a measure of how disastrous the results can be if you haven't prepared in your mind and your heart."

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Today, Jeremy Peters reports on what these sessions actually look like. He also has more detail on SBAList's aggressive approach—what Dannenfelser described to me as "getting out the fetal position, ironically."

The group recently hired a polling firm to test messages. It found that when it told Florida voters that a Democratic candidate for an open House seat there, Alex Sink, did not support limiting abortion after five months, women in Democratic households shifted their support toward the Republican in the race, David Jolly.

Last month, the "super PAC" affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony List began testing this message in North Carolina against Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in its first move in a Senate race this year. In a TV ad, a young couple talks about their daughter, who was born prematurely at 24 weeks. “These are babies,” the mother says. “This is human life. And we are their only voice.”

This was interesting, because in June, Hagan was the first potential messaging target Dannenfelser brought up. "Ask Kay Hagan, why did you say you couldn't possibly support a 20-week restriction on abortions?" asked Dannenfelser, previewing the attack. "That's wildly out of touch with North Carolinians."

Funny thing about that ad, though. The couple featured is Ned and Becca Ryun. Ned Ryun is the founder of American Majority, a conservative grassroots training group. The Ryuns first shared their story in a 2011 post for RedState.com. So this is the story of a family of activists—who live in Purcellville, Virginia. Not in Hagan's North Carolina.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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