Democrats Inch Right on Abortion
By Fred Barnes | August 30, 2017
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in May that the Democratic Party should not require its candidates to support the right to an abortion. “This is not a rubber-stamp party,” she told the Washington Post. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed.
In July Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Texas, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Hill he would be open to funding pro-life candidates in 2018 House races. California Gov. Jerry Brown said on “Meet the Press” that candidates’ positions on abortion “should not be the basis for their exclusion.”
We’ve heard this talk before about a “big tent” party. What’s new is the sudden emphasis on accepting antiabortion Democrats as candidates and funding their campaigns. Last year this was not in Democrats’ plans. The Democratic platform took a rigid pro-choice position that called for taxpayer funding of abortions. The advocacy group Naral Pro-Choice America was thrilled, calling it “the best ever for reproductive freedom.”
That was before Donald Trump had won the presidency with a boost from traditionally Democratic voters. It turned out they were attracted more by his conservative stances on social issues like abortion than by his economic views, a poll by the Voter Study Group discovered. Mr. Trump wound up capturing five Midwestern states—Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—where social issues resonated. Barack Obama won each of those states twice.
The Democrats’ recent step to the right on abortion is small but significant. It shows party leaders have awakened to their weakness on social issues. “Pelosi knows that if Democrats run fanatical pro-abortion candidates in purple districts, they’re not going to win the House” in 2018, says Jeff Bell, a Republican strategist at the American Principles Project.
Yet while easing up on pro-life candidates may soften the Democrats’ image as the party of abortion, it brings at least two troubles of its own.
The first is an increasingly bitter debate inside the party. Howard Dean, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, reacted to Mrs. Pelosi’s comment by pledging not to contribute to the congressional campaign committee if it funds antiabortion candidates. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) opposed the Pelosi position. Planned Parenthood and Naral took strong exception.
The argument quickly spread to the states. Missouri’s Democratic chairman, Stephen Webber, told the Kansas City Star he’s eager to recruit good candidates, and if the only recourse is candidates who oppose abortion, he’ll settle for them. State Rep. Stacey Newman, who heads a group called Progress Women, said Mr. Webber was “plain wrong.” But he’s not alone. John Gibson, party chairman in Kansas, said if an antiabortion candidate wins the primary, that’s fine with him.
Fighting over abortion isn’t likely to aid a party trying to recover after a stinging defeat. Resentments are raw. When Kristen Day of Democrats for Life suggested her group would work with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly rebuked her: “The DCCC has no interest in working with Democrats for Life of America, despite their attempts.” Polls, by the way, show 3 in 10 Democratic voters are pro-life.
The other problem is the political landscape. It’s changed. For decades Democrats skillfully used the abortion issue to tar pro-life Republicans as enemies of women’s health, among other unsavory things. Republican candidates were on the defensive and not very good at it. Many wished the issue would fade away.
Today the roles are reversed. When Democrats move their way, even slightly, it means the pro-life movement is gaining, says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “We’re on offense.”
The pro-life movement has a large field to play on. Republicans control 32 state legislatures, 26 of them in states with Republican governors and another one with a Democratic governor but a veto-proof GOP majority. Republican legislators are overwhelmingly pro-life, which wasn’t always the case in the years following the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
With power comes accountability. It’s no longer enough for a Republican lawmaker to say “I’m pro-life” and leave it at that. Led by Ms. Dannenfelser and the Susan B. Anthony List, groups opposed to abortion insist legislators vote their way. Like the National Rifle Association, they keep score.
“We’ve gotten savvy as a movement,” says Michael New, a professor at Florida’s Ave Maria Law School. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) faces a tough re-election next year. She’ll have to explain why she voted against a bill to bar abortion after 20 weeks, while the North Dakota Legislature had passed a state version.
As a coalition party of liberal identity groups, Democrats have few options on social issues. Minorities, gay people and immigrants will erupt should their interests be threatened. Tinkering with the party’s image on abortion was less risky. But it doesn’t offer much of a reward either.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Browse the resources at Liferight.org. If you would like to speak to someone, or need more information, feel free to use our Contact Form, or contact us at:
Liferight of Watertown, Inc.
Watertown, NY 13601
Phone: (315) 788-4359
Liferight of Watertown is a non-profit organization dedicated to the sanctity of all human life, born and unborn.
Our goal is to educate the public concerning the increased erosion of legal protection for vulnerable human life, be it the unborn, the handicapped, or the elderly.
While we are not a service organization, where the need exists, we will refer those in need to agencies where they may obtain help.
PRAYER FOR PEACE
Immaculate Heart of Mary
help us to conquer the menace of evil
which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today,
and whose immeasurable effects
already weigh down upon our modern world
and seem to block the paths toward the future.
From famine and war,
From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction,
from every kind of war,
From sins against human life from its very beginning,
From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God,
From every kind of injustice in the life of society,
both national and international,
From readiness to trample on the commandments of God,
From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God,
From the loss of awareness of good and evil,
From sins against the Holy Spirit,
Accept, O Mother of Christ,
this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings,
laden with the sufferings of whole societies.
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer all sin:
individual sin and the "sin of the world",
sin in all of its manifestations.
Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world
the infinite saving power of the redemption:
the power of merciful love.
May it put a stop to evil.
May it transform consciences.
May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope.