Delaney's Fundraising Tactic Raises Abortion Issue

Delaney's Fundraising Tactic Raises Abortion Issue
Chris Zoeller/Globe-Gazette via AP
Delaney's Fundraising Tactic Raises Abortion Issue
Chris Zoeller/Globe-Gazette via AP
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John Delaney has been running longer and with less media attention than any other 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Hence his latest “novel idea”: The former congressman from Maryland, who declared his candidacy two summers ago, will campaign by fundraising for Planned Parenthood. 

The need to do so became obvious “when the DNC said the debate required [each candidate to have] 65,000 small-dollar donors,” Delaney told RealClearPolitics. His campaign doesn’t have those numbers yet “because I have not spent a large amount of time throughout my congressional career or this presidential campaign trying to solicit small-dollar donors,” he explained.

To earn a spot on stage, the businessman-turned-politician has launched “the Delaney Debate Challenge.” Here is how it works: Make a donation to his campaign, and he will cut a $2 check to one of 11 nonprofits and charities ranging from Everytown for Gun Safety to the ASPCA to Planned Parenthood.

“It is a real simple equation,” Delaney said. “I’d rather give money to charity than give it to digital marketing firms.”

As a longtime philanthropist, this type of giving is familiar territory for the candidate. As a politician, the decision to tie his fate, at least in part, to the bottom line of the controversial reproductive health organization could be fraught.

For one thing, it draws an immediate contrast between the long-shot presidential contender and the current occupant of the Oval Office. A thrice-married playboy before entering politics, Trump became a pro-life stalwart in his quest for the White House. He has nominated ostensibly anti-abortion Supreme Court justices. He has tried repeatedly, though unsuccessfully, to defund Planned Parenthood. He also, during this year’s State of the Union address, called for a federal ban on abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy.

“To defend the dignity of every person,” Trump told lawmakers and the nation, “I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”

Dismissing the president as “insensitive,” Delaney said the rhetoric was “designed to divide us, as usual.” He then offered a defense of the abortion provider.

“Planned Parenthood provides a tremendously broad range of services,” he told RealClearPolitics. “It is unfair to Planned Parenthood to narrowly kind of characterize it as really one thing. They operate very important health care services, including family planning, and all kinds of important things.”

According to the Abortion Care Network, a national association for independent abortion providers, Planned Parenthood remains the largest provider of the procedure in the country.

Furthering the contrast with Trump, Delaney also opposed the president’s proposed late-term prohibition, adding that such abortions “are exceedingly rare.”

“I don’t support any ban. I support abortions later in the pregnancies, which I think is the right term when it is an issue of the woman’s health, when the mother has a significant health care issue,” Delaney said.

That answer is in line with the rest of the Democratic field, one akin to what Beto O’Rourke told an Ohio voter on Monday. Asked about his stance on late-term abortion, the newest White House hopeful said the issue “should be a decision the woman makes. I trust her.”

Unlike O’Rourke, though, Delaney seemed open to some sort of restrictions: “I don’t support an open-ended, unlimited right, because at some point the condition of the fetus has equity in the discussion.”

“I think about it in the context of when a woman’s health is at risk. I don’t think of it in the context of an unlimited right,” Delaney concluded after repeatedly referencing his support for Roe v. Wade -- but without stating at what point in a pregnancy abortion should be prohibited.

Planned Parenthood, which opposes any late-term abortion ban, did not return RCP requests for comment. The organization will play a significant role in 2020 -- Republicans are preparing to make third-trimester abortion an election issue.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly accused Democrats of backing “infanticide.” Some of her favorite targets: Andrew Cuomo and Ralph Northam. Those Democratic governors, of New York and Virginia, respectively, have embraced legislation that would make abortion legal at any time.

Cuomo signed a bill into law last January expanding legal protections for third-trimester abortions, then directed One World Trade Center to be lit up in pink to “celebrate” the achievement.

Northam ignited a firestorm when he backed similar legislation and then discussed what would happen to a baby post-delivery.

“It’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities, there may be a fetus that is nonviable,” he told a local radio host in late-January. “So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mothers” about the child’s fate.

Delaney said he was not familiar with the Northam comments and that he did not support them. He also insisted that Trump’s rhetoric on the late-term abortion issue “has nothing to do with what I’m doing with my Delaney debate challenge.”

But his fundraising strategy could result in him standing out from the rest of the Democratic field and becoming a target of the president. Unlike the rest of the challengers, he is the only one willing, thus far, to directly and personally fund the abortion provider.

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