After loss at SCOTUS, what’s next for reproductive rights groups

A view of the west facade of the U.S. Supreme Court building, full of grand columns set to a blue sky background.
The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monday’s Supreme Court decision overturning the requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for emergency contraception under President Barack Obama’s health care law leaves the reproductive rights movement trying to figure out how to strike back.

Groups involved in the effort certainly have the wherewithal to do so, a review of the Sunlight Foundation’s influence trackers demonstrates.

Planned Parenthood is a major influence player, by virtue of the organization’s cash and clout. Along with its state affiliates, Planned Parenthood has spent more than $30 million on campaigns and ballot initiatives and more than $11 million lobbying the federal government on a host of issues ranging from generic “health issues” to welfare, to abortion, according to data compiled in the Sunlight Foundation’s Influence Explorer.

The group’s giving skews liberal, and employees and PACs of Planned Parenthood have contributed handsomely to some of the country’s most powerful Democrats, including: President Barack Obama ($133,135), Secretary of State (and former Sen.) John Kerry ($53,556) and Hillary Clinton ($48,882).

Unlike many national advocacy groups, Planned Parenthood devotes most of its resources to state battlegrounds. A whopping $24 million of its total campaign finance spending went to state level affiliates, ballot initiatives and candidates. The group devoted $2.2 million to a 2012 Florida ballot initiative that would have prohibited prohibited the use of public funds for abortion. The measure failed.

In Virginia, one of four states that place no limits on campaign contributions, Planned Parenthood donated $1.6 million to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project. McAuliffe defeated Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 gubernatorial election, where the Democrat made women’s reproductive rights a key theme.

NARAL Pro-Choice also took an active role in the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe showdown. The organization’s state affiliate spent $217,000 on mail, telemarketing online ads to stir up support for McAuliffe, according to VPAP.

Though the group has a smaller financial footprint than Planned Parenthood — Influence Explorer shows it has spent just over $5 million on campaign donations and $2.2 million on federal lobbying over the same time period — it also publishes policy studies and state report cards.

State legislatures may be the next front for the influence battle over late contraceptives, a search in Sunlights Open States database finds 153 different bills containing the term “emergency contraception” have been introduced in state legislatures in this cycle.

Meanwhile, most political observers have their eyes trained on the upcoming midterm elections, where national Republicans see a potential path to retaking the upper chamber. Though not one of this cycle’s biggest outside spenders, Planned Parenthood’s super PAC has made about $180,000 on independent expenditures, so far most of which has gone to defending one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.

Since the beginning of the 2014 campaign cycle, Planned Parenthood also has been an active purchaser of television time, Sunlight’s Political Ad Sleuth shows. Not all of those advertisements have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission, including several that Planned Parenthood has purchased in Kentucky, where Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection. The first Planned Parenthood ad targeting McConnell ran in Feburary, 2013.

NARAL’s political action committee, a “non-super” PAC, has doled out six-figure contributions to a wide selection of Democratic candidates and party committees.

In a statement after Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, NARAL promised to continue pushing the envelope:

“NARAL’s message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees’ personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds, and so is this ruling. We call upon Congress to right this wrong, and we will work tirelessly with our allies and member activists to make sure that the people who would stand between a woman and her doctor are held accountable.”