Planned Parenthood voter guides to show candidate reproductive records and target swing states

Pro-choice supporters pose for photos outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri, May 31, 2019, the last location in the state performing abortions, after a court announced the clinic could continue operating.

Planned Parenthood Votes launched two voter guides on Thursday that seek to highlight the reproductive rights records of candidates nationwide and target young voters and voters of color, as part of a campaign to mobilize voters in the midst of a Supreme Court vacancy fight that could have profound implications on the future of abortion rights.

The guides have been in the works since earlier this year, Amanda Matos, Planned Parenthood Votes Director of Constituency Campaigns, told CNN.

But their release comes as politicians and activists on opposing sides of the abortion debate gear up for a contentious fight over filling the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the weeks leading up to the election. President Donald Trump's pick for the seat, federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett, has expressed views at odds with abortion rights and would likely help further cement a conservative majority on the court.

The potential addition of another Trump appointee to the court could put the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, at stake. Following Ginsburg's death last month, anti-abortion groups including the Susan B. Anthony List and Students for Life also went into action. The Susan B. Anthony List has put money behind a digital ad campaign in support of Barrett, while Students for Life launched its own mobilizing effort.

Planned Parenthood Votes spent $350,000, according to Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, Planned Parenthood's director of state media campaigns, on the production and promotion of both voter guides, as part of the organization's $45 million budget for 2020. That overall budget covers "large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs," Planned Parenthood said in announcing the initiative last year.

The group's national voter guide allows users to type in their address and see the corresponding state and federal races they can vote on. It provides candidates' stances and, if applicable, voting records on reproductive rights issues.

"Because it includes down ballot races, it's also ensuring that states that might not be considered hotspots for the presidential (election) are still getting the same access to information for their state races or federal races," Matos said. The guide, she said, will be advertised on Facebook.

The youth voter guide, geared towards young voters and voters of color, will be released in 10 states, according to Lee-Gilmore. Many of them are 2020 battlegrounds: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. When voters from those states enter their address, the guide shows the federal and state races they can vote in and compares candidates on multiple issues including abortion, climate change, health care, minimum wage, education and LGBTQ rights.

While talking with young voters and voters of colors in the 10 states, Planned Parenthood Votes found that "really what's resonating with them right now are the intersectional issues," Matos said.

"We knew the way to make sure that young voters have access to equal information about how and when and who to vote for, we have to include cross-movement issues," she added.

The guide will also allow voters to create a mock-up to help them fill out their actual ballots.

The youth voter guide's promotion will be unique to each of the states, with advertising efforts focused on Instagram, Matos said.

Planned Parenthood Votes' goal in the voter mobilization landscape, Matos said, was increasing access to information, especially to those who may not have previously had access to it.

"Oftentimes campaigns are not talking to young voters or young voters of color because they're considered low propensity," she said, adding that it was often "because they're facing voter suppression or because they're young or they're facing other barriers."

When asked whether she included the Biden presidential campaign in that description, Matos declined to speak about any specific campaign.

This year's effort also comes following a slew of anti-abortion bills coming out of state legislatures in 2019, as well as a key Supreme Court abortion decision in June that struck down a Louisiana abortion restriction while seeing Chief Justice John Roberts in a concurring opinion leave the door open to more state limits on abortion.

"It is really key for Planned Parenthood Votes to get out information to voters all across the country, not prioritizing one race over the other, especially because we know it's state politicians that often have the power to impact everyone's access to essential reproductive healthcare," Matos said, adding that "2020 has been a year that definitely has pushed reproductive rights to be even more at the forefront of voters' minds."

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify Matos' response to a question about the Biden campaign and to specify that Planned Parenthood Votes launched the guide.

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