Anti-abortion activists cheered news today that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had signed a sweeping pledge promising to use federal government power to curtail abortion.
Leading activists had expressed concern about Perry in recent weeks, worried that his zeal for state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution would get in the way of using the federal government to prevent abortions.
At a conference several weeks ago, Perry said that if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision, it would be up to the states to decide how to regulate the practice.
Last night, Perry signed a pledge calling for sweeping federal action to stop abortion and appoint anti-abortion advocates to top federal positions, including judgeships. The pledge, written and sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Fund, has been signed by seven other presidential candidates with the exception of Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain.
"There was a giant exhale after the Perry announcement," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion organization that plans to raise $14 million this election cycle.
The organization is active in all the early delegate selection states and has co-sponsored a "Values Voters" bus tour through Iowa opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. Dannenfelser said her group is gaining traction in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire not only advocating for "pro-life" presidential candidates but also pushing for legislation that will block funding to Planned Parenthood.
While Perry is experiencing a surge of enthusiasm from Susan B. Anthony's 350,000 members, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is hurting.
"You lose all sorts of momentum when you have a disappointed sector of your constituency out there," Danennfelser said. She said the signing by Perry opens an opportunity "for a surge of social conservative support" for his candidacy.
Romney is opposed to abortion. He has said in the past that he was reluctant to sign the SBA pledge because it could be interpreted as interrupting federal funding to hospitals and because it might limit his choice of personnel for top administration posts.
"We are still hopeful that he will sign," Danennfelser said.
The moment to persuade Romney might pass after the nomination period, if he becomes the GOP candidate. Conservatives will rally around him Romney or likely any of the other GOP candidates in part because the Obama administration’s record is considered so bad, she said.