Democrats: A One-Issue Party?

| May 16, 2017

Can one be a Democrat and Pro-Life? In the past few weeks, this question has come to light with the campaign of Democrat Heath Mello to become mayor of Omaha. When Senator Bernie Sanders and the DNC voiced their support for Mello, pro-abortion groups quickly slammed such backing.

This began a debate across the party concerning the “requirement” to be pro-choice.

The question revealed the deep divide even among dedicated pro-choice Democrats. Asked about the direction of the Party, Bernie Sanders stated that the “model of the Democratic Party is failing…clearly the Democratic Party has got to change. ” He spoke in favor of a party that “speaks to the pain of the working class of this country” and made it clear he did not have any qualms supporting a pro-life Democrat in some situations. Sanders clarified his stanch position on pro-abortion issues but still maintain his reasons for supporting Mello.

In contrast, the DNC Chair, Tom Perez quickly affirmed his belief that:

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state. At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”

House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, commented on the question and stated that Democrats can certainly be pro-life. She emphasized that the Democratic Party is united through its value of working class family issues, commitment to job creation, etc.

However, now Pelosi faces backlash from feminists and other hardline abortion activists.

Shauna Thomas, the co-founder of the feminist advocacy group Ultraviolet, commented, “courting social conservatives by selling out women is not a winning campaign strategy but a morally bankrupt attempt to win votes without concern for the women who desperately need Democrats in their corner to fight against Republican attempts to restrict abortion…” President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ilyse Hogue, expressed her opinion saying the strategy of Pelosi was a move backward.

Catholics for Choice added their voice in denouncing Pelosi’s opinion as irresponsible and not in line with most Catholics. I wonder if the group realizes they are not in line with Catholic teaching?

Several Democrats support Pelosi and Sanders’ perspective and are dismayed at Democrats who want a “purity test” concerning abortion for members. Requiring all Democrats to be pro-life is a great risk for a party, which suffered a major blow in the recent elections. The debate on abortion continues to be divisive and central. Abortion is not a sideline issue, but one that can define an entire political party or win an election. In local races, the issue of abortion often drives the results towards a pro-life candidate.

The Democratic Party’s left turn on abortion can isolate voters who may be conflicted about the morality of such a strong stance. About one-third of Democrat voters hold pro-life views and the further the party moves in their advocacy for abortion, the more voters may turn away from their platform.

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