– The Washington Post

Ellen McCormack, an anti-abortion activist who drew attention to her cause and stirred controversy over campaign finance rules when she ran for president in 1976 and 1980, died March 27 at an assisted living facility in Avon, Conn. She was 84 and had congestive heart failure.

McCormack, a Long Island, N.Y., homemaker and grandmother, became the first female presidential candidate to qualify for Secret Service protection and federal campaign subsidies.

She had never held a political office when she launched her first drive for the White House, three years after the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s right to an abortion with its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Although she sometimes spoke about busing, welfare and conflict in the Middle East, she said her sole aim was to force candidates and voters to confront the issue of abortion.

“I stand for the rights of the unborn,” she told The New York Times. “I’m basically a one-issue candidate.”

The sole Democratic presidential candidate to advocate for a constitutional ban on abortion, McCormack won more than 200,000 votes in 18 primaries.

She netted three delegates to the national convention, where her name was placed in nomination with Rep. Morris K. Udall of Arizona, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Jimmy Carter.

McCormack “played a major role in the rise of the pro-life movement,” Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent anti-abortionist, wrote in 2007. “After her campaigns for president, politicians who had been timid about saying they opposed abortion and Roe v. Wade came out of the woodwork and confidently stated their views.”

McCormack’s presidential run was a grass-roots affair run by a group she co-founded, the Pro-Life Political Action Committee.

Her campaign triggered dismay in some quarters when it raised $5,000 in each of 20 states, thus qualifying for public campaign funds. Over the course of the race, she raised about $250,000, an amount that was matched dollar for dollar by the federal government.


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