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Gov. Pritzker’s abortion rights group spends $1.5 million in Ohio, Virginia and Nevada to fight ‘extremism at every level’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is speaking into a podium, addressing an abortion rights rally at Federal Plaza held last year.
Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere
/
Chicago Sun Times
Gov. J.B. Pritzker addresses an abortion rights rally at Federal Plaza last year. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s newly created nonprofit to combat anti-abortion efforts has already contributed $1.5 million to the movement, including a share in the next big abortion rights battleground state: Virginia.

Think Big America’s contribution of $25,000 each to four state Senate Democratic candidates in Virginia, and an additional $150,000 to the state Democratic party, comes ahead of a pivotal Nov. 7 election that may reshape abortion restrictions in the state.

While Pritzker’s group is aimed at helping states fight their own battles, abortion ballot questions will also likely boost Democratic turnout in next year’s presidential election.

In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said he would support an abortion ban after 15 weeks should Republicans win full control of the state legislature in next week’s elections. Republicans hope to hold the state’s House of Delegates and and flip the Senate.

Think Big America contributed $25,000 each to state Delegates Danica Roem, Schuyler VanValkenburg, Russet Perry and Joel Griffin.

Christina Amestoy, spokeswoman for Think Big America, called the contribution an example of “fighting extremism at every level.”

“Abortion access is on the line in Virginia. Given the chance, anti-choice extremists and their far-right allies will roll back reproductive freedoms in the last state in the South where women’s freedoms are still protected,” Amestoy said in a statement.

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, Pritzker and the Democrat-led Illinois General Assembly have expanded abortion rights in Illinois. Furthering that goal, Pritzker announced last month the launch of Think Big America, a tax-exempt nonprofit that spends money and resources to protect and expand abortion rights throughout the country.

The billionaire governor is contributing dollars to initially seed the group, although he declined to specify the amount. And the group won’t be required to disclose its donors.

In Nevada, Think Big America also contributed $1 million to the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom PAC, which is fighting for a November 2024 ballot question that would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive rights.” The newly formed PAC is affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

In Ohio, Think Big America contributed $250,000 to Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, a ballot committee made up of a coalition of reproductive rights advocates. Ohioans on Nov. 7 will be voting whether to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitution

Abortion rights advocates in August defeated a ballot initiative in Ohio that would have raised the threshold to change the constitution from a simple majority to 60%, a measure that if approved would have made it harder to protect abortion rights in the state.

Now proponents who went out asking for a “no” vote on the August amendment are asking for a “yes” to codify abortion rights in the state, which has caused some confusion.

Pritzker has already contributed $750,000 individually to support the abortion rights initiative: $500,000 in September to Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and $250,000 in June to Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, records show.

In addition to the latest contributions through the group, Pritzker also contributed $201,000 to two groups in support of Kansas’ abortion amendment last year. He also sent $1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and $20,000 directly to Janet for Justice to support Janet Protasiewicz, the Milwaukee County judge who won her Wisconsin Supreme Court justice seat and flipped control of the court to give liberals a 4-3 majority.

Pritzker’s political staffers are splitting their time between his campaign and Think Big America. The Democratic governor sent some of his staff, including his campaign manager, to Ohio this year to help Democrats defeat the August ballot initiative.

For now, there are no plans for any staffers to be on the ground for the final stretch of the Ohio vote, Amestoy said. Think Big America, however, plans to post social media links where can people can sign up to make calls.

Tina Sfondeles is the chief political reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times