Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic and Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina announced in an Oct. 7 press release that it will begin a $5 million campaign to promote pro-choice candidates in North Carolina.
The press release named North Carolina Senate districts 3, 7, 17, 18 and 42 as the Planned Parenthood organizations' main priority. The release said Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina will also focus on the two seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court.
"If we don’t elect reproductive rights champions in five key state senate races, an anti-abortion supermajority will have the votes to ban abortion in North Carolina," Emily Thompson, deputy director of Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina, said in the statement. "And if we don’t defend two critical North Carolina Supreme Court seats, we will lose our last line of defense to protect democracy."
N.C. Sen. Sarah Crawford (D-Franklin, Wake) said Planned Parenthood is most likely focused on races that are coin flips — meaning they typically swing from Democratic to Republican with each election.
Crawford also said there are several state House races to watch as well, including House District 35 in Wake County.
Kate Bixler, third vice chairperson for the Wake Democratic Party, said Wake County House and Senate candidates are actively discussing this issue. She also said the Republican Party seems to be taking a vague stance on what they will actually do in regard to abortion.
Republicans could gain a supermajority in November, which could allow them to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto and pass more restrictive abortion legislation.
“If they can override Cooper's veto, all they have to do is block any attempts at protection,” Bixler said. “That keeps their candidates safe from having to take a clear stance on what they will do.”
N.C. Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry (R-Lenoir, Wayne) said there has been a lot of talk about what will happen if there is a Republican supermajority.
He said he is in favor of restrictions on abortion access, with some exceptions.
“If we’re talking about someone saying, 'Hey, we should never have any exceptions and abortions should be illegal,' that’s not my view," Perry said. “I have three daughters.”
N.C. Sen. Mike Woodard (D-Durham, Granville, Person) said Senate District 7, which includes Mecklenburg County, is another area Planned Parenthood is likely placing its focus.
Jane Whitley, the chair of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party, said House districts 98 and 103 are the two most competitive seats right now.
“We believe that there's so much on the line, we are fighting for those seats,” Whitley said.
Crawford said that the Democrats are hoping to keep protections in place for people seeking abortion and prevent restrictions.
“We want to make sure that the decision of when to have a baby is up to the woman, and that she has the right to choose,” Crawford said. “That decision is made between her and the doctor.”
She also said it is likely Planned Parenthood, like most campaigns right now, is focused on turning out voters who care about a people's right to choose an abortion.
“I don't know specifically how Planned Parenthood has invested their money, but anything that helps to cut through all of the other noise, whether it's campaign noise or other marketing noise that folks are hearing, making sure that it cuts through to reach voters and make sure that they plan to vote either during the early voting period or on Election Day,” Crawford said.
Along with their investment into state legislature elections, Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic has also endorsed the Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley for North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat.
Tara Romano, the executive director of Pro-Choice North Carolina, said this election is critical because it could determine the status of abortion access in the state.
Romano also said North Carolina is one of the only states in the Southeast that has abortion access. In competitive districts that Democrats are looking to keep or flip, Republicans are hoping to do the opposite.
“We know that midterms typically see a drop off in voter turnout, and so one of the things that we are trying to do is help our supporters understand what's at stake, and why it's so important to vote the whole ballot,” Romano said.
Early voting began on Oct. 20, and Election Day is on Nov. 8.
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