February 15, 2012; Source: American Prospect

In the first lap of the current Republican presidential contest, the Susan B. Anthony List secured an anti-abortion pledge from many Republican candidates, among them Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Mitt Romney, however, didn’t sign on. The 501(c)(4)’s conservative vow included promises to excise funding for Planned Parenthood and to shorten the legal limit for abortions from 24 to 21 weeks. Attention must be paid, for The List has outsized influence and millions of dollars behind its core mission of promoting pro-life candidates.

The Susan B. Anthony List PAC began in 1993, formed by Rachel MacNair and colleagues from Feminists for Life, a pre-Roe v. Wade nonprofit geared to steering college students to alternatives to abortion. The List has since been stoking the culture war with the conviction that “abortion is something that is inflicted on women rather than something that women should be allowed to do if they want,” in the words of MacNair.

The List hit its stride in the mid-1990’s upon the heels of the GOP’s Contract with America after early volunteer Marjorie Dannenfelser rose to executive director and reformed The List as a 501(c)(4) with a PAC extension. The group’s power seemingly shot up after the like-minded Sarah Palin shouted its praises in 2008 and again after the passage of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010. The List’s heavily funded “Votes Have Consequences” initiative helped block the 2010 reelection bids of 15 of the 20 pro-life “Stupak Democrats” who voted for healthcare reform.

One of the casualties, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, (D-Penn.), aptly describes how The List tossed aside its original mission—to usher anti-abortion women into Congress from both sides of the aisle—and morphed into a Republican fundraising machine: “It has to do with politics, and not wanting pro-life Democrats—particularly a woman who’s pro-life and Democrat and in office—because we’re a threat to the Republican Party.”

Based on the Susan B. Anthony List’s success in installing several anti-abortion men and women into congressional seats in the last two election cycles, it may have the ability to sway several congressional contests in November. It remains to be seen what impact the group’s pledge will have in the Republican presidential contest. –Louis Altman