Susan B. Anthony List

Susan B. Anthony List, commonly referred to as SBA List, is one of the most influential anti-abortion groups in Washington and has close ties to both President Trump and Vice President Pence. SBA List works on the federal and state levels to push its anti-abortion agenda and elect anti-abortion legislators.


Summary Extremism Key Players Influence

Summary

Susan B. Anthony List, commonly referred to as SBA List, is one of the most influential anti-abortion groups in Washington. It is incredibly cozy with both President Trump and Vice President Pence; after first refusing to endorse Trump in 2016, SBA List made a radical 180-degree turn, not only endorsing him but joining his Pro-Life Advisory Committee and hosting him at its 2018 Gala.

Its playbook includes endorsing anti-abortion lawmakers, lobbying state and federal legislators and executive branch officials for extremist legislation, and voter influence campaigns. The Charlotte Lozier Institute, Women Speak Out PAC, National Pro-Life Women’s Caucus and the Life Issues Institute are all branches and affiliates of SBA List. The group works at the federal and state levels on issues ranging from opposing the ACA birth control mandate to supporting a near total abortion ban in Ohio to urging the Trump administration to end $100 million of critical lifesaving medical research because it relies on fetal tissue.

Extremism

Susan B. Anthony List and its president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, want to ban abortion in nearly all circumstances — while opposing many popular and common forms of birth control.

In 2016, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that her “perfect abortion bill” would ban abortion in all circumstances (including rape and incest), except for when a woman’s life is at risk.

“Mrs Dannenfelser is also reluctant to be drawn on some of the heavily debated exceptions to the pro-life rule. Polling shows that a public majority, in America and in Britain, agree that women and girls should have access to abortion after rape, for example. Mrs Dannenfelser isn’t convinced. In fact, she’s hugely frustrated that anti-abortion bills have been blocked in the past because of a lack of exception clauses, when they make up such a tiny proportion of cases.  So what would her ‘perfect abortion bill’ look like? she says, eventually, before her pragmatism rears its head. ‘But we’re not living a perfect world, and I have also been behind bills that have included the rape, incest and life of the mother exception.’” [Telegraph, 9/26/16]

SBA List is opposed to some kinds of birth control.

“Rather than stressing her opposition to abortion, Mrs Dannenfelser portrays herself as a protector of lives. She stresses that women shouldn’t be punished and insists they should receive support, not judgement. In saying so, she reflects the new face of the previously male-dominated pro-life movement of America’s past, which is trying to draw the debate away from the territory of choice and women’s rights. As a result, she doesn’t want to speak about her views on contraception: apparently ‘it’s not relevant’ and she is ‘not interested in talking about it.’ A follow-up request to the SBA List spokesperson reveals why: the organisation is opposed to some kinds of birth control – namely, IUD coils and the morning after pill – because in both instances, there’s a chance they could prevent a fertilised egg from implanting. It’s a strict reading of Roman Catholic teaching that would make many practising Catholics uncomfortable.” [Telegraph, 9/26/16]

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser believes that rape exceptions for abortion are “abominable.”

“Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, who moderated the press conference and whose organization has been a prominent backer of the 20-week ban in its current form, said that she believes that rape exceptions are ‘abominable.’  ‘I agree. I agree that the rape exception is abominable,’ she told LifeSiteNews. ‘I also know that with it, we were able to move forward, and we have the potential of saving 15,000 to 18,000 children a year. No one should give up or give over a rape exception unless there is simply no chance of saving those other children. I really believe that.” [Life Site News, 6/11/15]

 

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SBA List supported a measure that would essentially ban abortion in all cases, as well as many forms of birth control. 

In 2007, Susan B. Anthony List named a “Human Life Amendment” among the legislation in which it was interested. [SBA-List.org via Archive.org, captured 8/3/07]

The Human Life Amendment would amend the Constitution to end legal abortion and potentially ban several of the most common forms of birth control.

“Pro-life activists are now focusing their attention on states for a new tactic to end abortion. Activists in at least half a dozen states are pursuing constitutional amendments called Human Life Amendments that would grant legal status and rights to an embryo.” [NPR, 1/22/08]

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SBA List maintained support for controversial Senate candidate Todd Akin after most Republicans pulled their support following his “legitimate rape” argument.

In 2012, SBA List defended Todd Akin following his remark that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, even though most Republican groups pulled their support for the controversial candidate…

“Republican leadership has a not so-subtle-hint for Todd Akin: They would like the Missouri Senate candidate, who remarked that ‘legitimate rape’ rarely results in pregnancy, out of the race — and sooner rather than later. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled $5 million in ads and multiple senators have demanded he step down.…Pro-life groups, however, have taken a decidedly different take. Both the Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council have stood by Akin. They don’t see him as a politician who has made a career ending gaffe. In their view, he’s a strong abortion right opponent who articulated a tenet of the pro-life movement: Abortion should be illegal in all situations, rape included.  ‘Todd Akin … has a record of voting to protect human life,’ said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, reaffirming her support in a statement. He ‘has been an excellent partner in the fight for the unborn.’” [Washington Post, 8/21/12]

… This is unsurprising considering SBA List’s close association with the Life Issues Institute, whose founder, Dr. Jack C. Willke, pioneered the “legitimate rape” argument.

“Bradley Mattes is president of Life Issues Institute, the pro-life grassroots partner of the Susan B. Anthony List Education Fund, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. The organization was founded by pro-life pioneer Dr. John C. Willke and Brad in 1991 to serve the educational needs of the pro-life movement. Its primary objective is to globally develop and disseminate effective pro-life educational material.” [SBA List, accessed 11/16/18]

  • Willke asserted a theory that a woman’s body protects her from pregnancy in the case of rape, a theory that led to Akin’s claim that if a rape is a “legitimate rape,” a woman can’t get pregnant.

“In ‘Why Can’t We Love Them Both: Questions and Answers About Abortion,’ a book that Willke published in 1971 with his wife, they claim that the trauma associated with ‘assault rape’ makes a woman’s body less habitable and thus lessens the possibility of pregnancy, the Los Angeles Times reports.” [Politico, 8/22/12]

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SBA has elevated anti-LGBTQ beliefs and partnered with groups opposed to marriage equality.

SBA List joined the “Life And Marriage Coalition” that formed in August 2012. 

According to Right Wing Watch, “A number of Religious Right organizations are coming together for an election season coalition to attack President Obama in swing states. The Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, The Family Leader, Concerned Women for America, American Principles Project, the Susan B. Anthony List and Common Sense Issues have joined the ‘Life and Marriage Coalition,’ which FRC head Tony Perkins said is needed to defeat Obama’s ‘anti-marriage and anti-life policies.’” [Right Wing Watch, 8/28/12]

  • Dannenfelser’s statement on the coalition: “if we value marriage and want to stop government funding of abortion groups, we must defeat Barack Obama.” 

According to a Life and Marriage Coalition press release, “A coalition of the nation’s most prominent conservative social issue groups (www.lifeandmarriagecoalition.com) today announced that they are coordinating efforts in Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina to talk about the importance of preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and supporting the sanctity of human life. … Combined efforts will include independent expenditures for radio advertisements, billboards, phone and bus tour events designed to educate and mobilize socially conservative voters in the three targeted states. […] Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List added, ‘We will work together as national groups and partner with local pro-family organizations to make sure that voters know that if we value marriage and want to stop government funding of abortion groups, we must defeat Barack Obama.’” [Life and Marriage Coalition, August 2012]

SBA List partnered with the National Organization for Marriage to run ads against Barbara Boxer.

“A new Spanish language ad from the Susan B. Anthony List, a Republican group that opposes abortion, and the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, attacks Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on its core issues, saying that Boxer ‘doesn’t share our values’ because she ‘supports abortion and homosexual marriage.’” [PolitiFact, 10/8/10]

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Key Players

Founder & President

Marjorie Dannenfelser

Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president and founder of Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser has stated that “rape exceptions” to abortion bans are “abominable” and “intellectually dishonest,” and seeks to ban abortion in almost all cases. Dannenfelser also served as the head of Donald Trump’s “Pro-Life Coalition” during the 2016 campaign and has close ties to the Trump White House. Dannenfelser has been lobbying senators on the so-called “Born Alive Abortion Survivor Protection Act.” 

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National Campaign Chair

Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek is the national campaign chair for Susan B. Anthony List. In 2001, Stanek testified before the House Judiciary Committee and claimed that all abortion is “infanticide.” More recently, Stanek was arrested alongside anti-abortion extremist Troy Newman while protesting in favor of an abortion ban, and posted a blog post to her website titled “The Case Against Homosexual Adoption.” Stanek also has a history of making highly inflammatory comments about LGBTQ individuals, slavery and the Holocaust.

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Former Director & Prominent Donor

Sean Fieler

Sean Fieler is a prominent donor to Susan B. Anthony List and former director at the organization. Fieler is the founder of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, which spends millions contributing to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ groups and candidates. Fieler has provided funding for a “think tank” that is critical of masturbation, divorce and birth control and funded a campaign to impose strict new rules on bathroom use for transgender individuals. Fieler has a history of defaming LGBTQ individuals and was fined for failing to report $200,000 in spending on a campaign to block California’s transgender student rights law. SBA List also shares an office building and works hand-in-hand with American Principles Project, a conservative nonprofit funded by Fieler.

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Vice President of Government Affairs

Marilyn Musgrave

Marilyn Musgrave is the vice president of government affairs at Susan B. Anthony List. Musgrave is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where she introduced legislation to amend the U.S. Constitution define marriage as a “union of one man and one woman.” Musgrave has a long history of anti-LGBTQ activities and statements, including claims that redefining marriage would lead to “polygamy or group marriage.”

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Influence

SBA List is an anti-abortion political group that seeks to be the political arm of the anti-abortion movement.

“‘When we started about 20 years ago, you would not put the pro-life movement and the NRA in the same category. You just wouldn’t,’ she says. ‘For us, it’s the issue that deserves a political machine more than any other. That’s been my goal—to make this issue, which is so fundamental, have the strongest political arm they could possibly have. That’s the direction I see this heading in.’” [Mother Jones, 2/22/12]

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Susan B. Anthony List’s influence is well-documented, as Trump’s HHS continually implements anti-abortion policies after pressure from the group.

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser is closely tied with the Trump Administration, often attending White House events.

Dannenfelser attended Trump’s inauguration in 2017. [@Marjoriesba, Twitter, 1/20/17]

In February 2017, Dannenfelser was at the White House with other conservative leaders to discuss Neil Gorsuch’s SCOTUS nomination. [White House, 2/1/17]

In April 2017, Dannenfelser was at the White House with HHS Administrator Seema Verma after Trump signed a bill allowing states to withhold federal funds from abortion providers. [C-Span, 4/13/17]

In May 2018, President Trump gave remarks at the Susan B. Anthony List 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala. [White House, 5/22/18

In September 2018, Dannenfelser attended the confirmation hearings of SCOTUS Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [@MarjorieSBA, Twitter, 9/27/18]

On February 14, 2019: Trump met with Marjorie Dannenfelser at the White House.

“Earlier in the day, the president and aides met with top antiabortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser and several other activists who call themselves ‘abortion survivors.’ On a call with reporters, Dannenfelser described Trump as ‘the most pro-life-acting president who has ever been.’” [Washington Post, 2/15/19]

Trump’s health department proposed a rule to reduce abortion access for low- income women days after Dannenfelser penned an op-ed asking HHS to issue such a rule. 

Less than 24 hours after the 2018 midterms, HHS announced a proposed rule to require separation of billing in ACA health plans for the part of coverage related to abortion services…

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the branch of HHS that oversees much of the ACA, proposed a new rule on Wednesday that is similar in spirit, requiring a greater separation of billing in ACA health plans for the part of coverage relating to abortion services that cannot be paid for with federal money.  HHS officials downplayed the impact of the contraceptive rules, as they did when first proposing the idea. They predicted that the exemptions will be invoked by ‘no more than approximately 200 employers’ and affect the coverage of birth control for perhaps 6,400 women.” [Washington Post, 11/7/18]

… Marjorie Dannenfelser and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins urged HHS to issue a new rule requiring separate payment for abortion services just one week before HHS issued the proposed rule.

“In just a few days, Americans will have the opportunity to purchase ObamaCare insurance plans either through the federal exchange or state-based exchange. Unfortunately, many consumers who sign up for coverage will end up paying a hidden abortion surcharge as a part of their monthly premium. As we enter the second open enrollment period of the Trump administration, we encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a new rule shedding daylight on the abortion surcharge and giving consumers the right to refrain from paying it.” [Marjorie Dannenfelser & Tony Perkins, The Hill, 10/30/18]

Marjorie Dannenfelser Promised SBA List Would Spend $41 Million To Elect Anti-Abortion Congresspersons And Donald Trump In 2020, As Well As Continue To Back State-Based Reforms. 

“The president of the nation’s largest anti-abortion advocacy group said Monday night it would spend $41 million in the 2020 cycle to re-elect President Trump and “pro-life” members of Congress while advocating for more abortion restrictions at the state level. The goal, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, is to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to abortion.” [The Hill 6/03/19]

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In September 2018, HHS abruptly cancelled a fetal tissue procurement contract and opened an audit of all federally-funded fetal tissue research after pressure from SBA List …

Trump’s health department cancelled a contract for fetal tissue after pressure from anti-abortion groups.

“Anti-abortion groups — normally staunch allies of the Trump administration — have turned their fire on the health department, accusing the agency of being complicit in abortions by refusing to end research projects using fetal tissue. The simmering fight spilled into public view on Monday night, as HHS abruptly terminated one longstanding contract with a fetal tissue provider while opening an audit of all federally funded research and practices related to fetal tissue, which is mostly obtained from abortions. The health department, which cited “the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved” in using fetal tissue, also pledged to seek alternatives to fetal tissue for research purposes. HHS, FDA and the National Institutes of Health declined to make leaders available for interviews.” [Politico, 9/28/18]

  • An unnamed FDA spokesperson said fetal tissue has been used “where it is critical to understanding the safety of drugs and vaccines.”

“But an FDA spokesperson told POLITICO that fetal tissue “has been used in situations where it is critical to understanding the safety of drugs and vaccines and in which it couldn’t be feasibly achieved through another means. This work has led to a better understanding of a number of conditions and diseases that affect millions of Americans.””  [Politico, 9/28/18]

Washington Post: anti-abortion groups’ influence on pro-life Trump administration crystallized with its targeting of fetal tissue research.

Since HHS announced in late September a wide-ranging audit of the use of fetal tissue in federally funded research, groups that have long sought to outlaw its use say they are finally being heard. They view such research as morally repugnant and unnecessary because they contend other techniques can be used — an assertion many scientists reject. ‘This is a pro-life administration,’ said David Prentice, vice president and research director of the antiabortion Charlotte Lozier Institute, who said members of his group and the affiliated Susan B. Anthony List have met with Pence to press their case. ‘It’s just nice to have someone who will listen and not just close the door in your face.’” [Washington Post, 12/12/18]

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President Trump spoke at the annual SBA List gala in 2018, where he announced his administration’s plan to undermine the Title X family planning program.

Donald Trump spoke at the 2018 SBA List gala to tout his administration’s changes to the Title X family planning program.

“Trump used SBA’s gala to tout his administration’s changes to the Title X family planning program that would effectively eliminate funding for abortion providers including Planned Parenthood — the longtime foe of the anti-abortion movement. And he called for electing anti-abortion Republicans this fall to further his agenda, including ensuring that any Supreme Court hopeful he nominates can win confirmation in the closely divided Senate.” [Politico, 5/22/18]

SBA List encouraged attendees to its annual conference to stay at the Trump International Hotel and reserved a block of rooms.

“The Trump White House and SBA List are so in sync that the group encouraged guests at Tuesday’s bash to stay at the Trump International Hotel. The organization even held a contest to win a trip to the gala that includes free accommodations at the venue. An SBA List spokeswoman said the group had already reserved a bloc of rooms at the Trump hotel, adding that it was ‘fun’ for its attendees to stay at a Trump venue.” [Politico, 5/22/18]

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SBA List has provided anti-abortion information and hiring recommendations to the Office Of The Assistant Secretary For Health (OASH) in HHS.

SBA List provided OASH Chief of Staff Steven Valentine with fact sheets and documents regarding reallocating funding from Planned Parenthood.

SBA List Policy Director Autumn Christensen emailed Steven Valentine several documents and “fact sheets” regarding reallocating funds from Planned Parenthood.

[EF FOIA Response, Steven Valentine Emails, Obtained 8/16/18, page 238-244]

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SBA List officials directly emailed Steven Valentine recommendations for “strongly pro-life” candidates for the position of deputy assistant secretary for the Office Of Population Affairs.

SBA List officials directly emailed Steven Valentine recommendations for “strongly pro-life” candidates for the position of deputy assistant secretary for the Office Of Population Affairs.

In January 2018, Autumn Christensen of SBA List sent an email to an AAPLOG staff member requesting “pro-life candidates” for the deputy assistant secretary for the Office Of Population Affairs…

  • Christensen noted that “with the right person in place, we see strong opportunities to redirect the program away from funding Planned Parenthood and instead toward funding comprehensive women’s health centers like community health centers.”

[EF FOIA Response, Steven Valentine Emails, Obtained 8/16/18, page 215]

… And on January 17, 2018, Christensen forwarded a resume for the deputy assistant secretary for the Office Of Population Affairs position to Steven Valentine. [EF FOIA Response, Steven Valentine Emails, Obtained 8/16/18, page 214]

[EF FOIA Response, Steven Valentine Emails, Obtained 8/16/18, pages 214-215]

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A watchdog group filed an IRS complaint Against SBA List for abusing its nonprofit status and other financial violations

The watchdog group Campaign For Accountability filed an IRS complaint asking to investigate SBA List for abusing its nonprofit status, overpaying outside fundraisers, and failing to disclose payments to firms owned by its corporate directors.

Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on the IRS to investigate the anti-abortion advocacy group Susan B. Anthony List, Inc. (SBA List), for, among other things, abusing its nonprofit status, misleading the IRS, overpaying its outside fundraisers, and failing to disclose payments to firms owned by its corporate directors.” [Campaign For Accountability 5/28/19]

Campaign for accountability alleges that SBA List’s work is “entirely” in the realm of electoral politics, which would be in violation of its tax status.

SBA List is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, maintains a related 501(c)(3) organization, the Charlotte Lozier Institute Legal Defense Fund, as well as three political action committees (PACs) that are registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  The PACs include a regular PAC, Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, and two super PACs, Women Speak Out PAC, and Susan B. Anthony List Action PAC.  While 501(c)(4) organizations such as SBA List are allowed to participate in political activities, advocating the election or defeat of particular candidates cannot be a group’s primary purpose. SBA List, however, is devoted entirely to electoral politics.  Its mission is to elect anti-choice politicians, and a significant portion of the money that flows through SBA List’s amalgam of entities is used for political purposes.  Moreover, donations to SBA List increase dramatically during election years.” [Campaign For Accountability 5/28/19]

Campaign For Accountability: “Since 2009, SBA List’s entities have reported inconsistent amounts to the IRS and the FEC Totaling Nearly $2 Million.”

Beyond its initial application, SBA List has continued to file inaccurate information with either the IRS, the FEC, or both. Nonprofits are required to submit their political spending to the IRS, and PACs must report their spending to the FEC. Since 2009, SBA List’s entities have reported inconsistent amounts to the IRS and the FEC totaling nearly $2 million.” [Campaign For Accountability 5/28/19]

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