Carly Fiorina may be floundering in her presidential bid, but through it the former Hewlett-Packard executive has emerged as one of the anti-abortion movement's most beloved advocates.
In her trademark pointed and articulate style, Fiorina launched an attack on abortion rights and the groups that promote them as she addressed attendees at the 43rd annual March for Life Friday, organized every year to protest the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure.
"You can scream and throw condoms at me all day long — you cannot scare me," Fiorina said, to cheers from the crowd of activists gathered on the National Mall. "I know the value of life."
While nearly all of Fiorina's Republican opponents hold the same positions on abortion, favoring more restrictions on it and backing recent efforts by Congress to block public funding for Planned Parenthood, Fiorina has eagerly embraced the topic in a way the others haven't.
During a Republican primary debate in the fall, she "dared" President Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to watch the undercover videos that put Planned Parenthood under a harsh political spotlight for its involvement in supplying aborted fetuses for medical research.
"Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,'" Fiorina said at the debate. "This is about the character of our nation."
Fiorina's remarks brought a flood of indignation from abortion rights advocates, but the former CEO has deflected the attacks by criticizing what she sees as narrow-minded thinking driven by a particular brand of feminism.
"Ideological feminism now shuts down conversation on college campuses and in the media," Fiorina said at the March for Life. "If you are a conservative who doesn't believe the litany of the Left, you are waging a war on women."
For anti-abortion leaders, Fiorina is a somewhat atypical kind of spokeswoman. She has spent most of her life building a career as a high-powered executive. She has never given birth to a child, although she has two stepdaughters. She has sought public office twice.
While many prominent abortion-opposing groups are led by women, most of them have several children and ascended to positions of leadership after their children were older. Yet these leaders love Fiorina. As they have recently pushed a more pro-woman message, they have found in her an articulate, feminine voice to help make their case that abortion harms not just fetuses, but also the women who choose to abort them.
"She, as a spokeswoman, is a dream come true," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told the Washington Examiner.
Dannenfelser's group, which featured Fiorina as keynote speaker at its annual gala last year, mainly focuses on supporting female candidates who oppose abortion. While SBA List doesn't plan on endorsing any Republican contenders during the primary, Dannenfelser said Fiorina is the "model" of the kind of women she wants to see run for office.
SBA List did back Fiorina during her 2010 bid to unseat California Sen. Barbara Boxer. Dannenfelser recalls that after sitting down with Fiorina for an endorsement interview, she felt Fiorina had given the "hands-down best interview of that cycle."
"Nobody quite knew then what a fabulous spokesperson she could be," Dannenfelser said. "She just blew us out of the water."
There's broad feeling among the anti-abortion movement that it needs more focus on how abortion affects women, partially to counter the "war on women" messaging that Democrats, Planned Parenthood and other supporters of abortion rights have pushed. Fiorina agrees with that goal.
"I think that it matters when a woman's voice is raised about the protection of the sanctity of life," Fiorina told the Examiner earlier in the week. "I think that matters."
Toward that end, the March for Life's theme this year was "pro-life and pro-women go hand-in-hand."
"Abortion is not good for women, psychologically or physically," President Jeanne Mancini told the gathered crowd.
Mancini has made a concerted effort to highlight more female speakers during the pre-march rally. Besides Fiorina, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Dannenfelser spoke. To Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, hearing a woman speak about abortion is more powerful than hearing a man.
"We have got many great pro-life leaders who are men, but I think when a woman talks about the issue, it means something more sometimes," Hawkins told the Examiner. She also applauds Fiorina and her approach to talking about the issue.
"I think that's a powerful statement to have the female Republican running for the president of the United States of America as a hard-core pro-life activist," Hawkins said.
Anna Giaritelli and Al Weaver contributed to this story.