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Pro-Life Democrats Roll Over and Beg

Posted on August 22, 2012


With all the attention the media are and will be putting into presenting the GOP as a party held captive by pro-life extremists, it's worth noting that the Democratic Party of recent memory has continued its long march leftward on the issue, becoming an unwelcome environment for the remaining pro-life Democrats in the fold who are struggling at this point not to substantially change party policy but to simply be recognized as members in good standing alongside pro-choicers.

A beleaguered minority in a majority pro-choice party, the Democrats for Life of America are pining for the good ol' days of 1996 when the party platform included language on the abortion plank that signaled the party was open and welcoming "at every level" to pro-life members. But alas, pro-life Democrats efforts for a "big tent" statement in the party platform failed miserably this year, as one might expect given the platform committee's dominance by staunchly liberal members, including Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

A review of the evolution of the Democratic Party's abortion platform plank from 1996 to 2008 -- the draft 2012 document is not yet published -- shows that the Democratic Party has become increasingly vociferous on its resolute pro-choice stance as the years have worn on, even as polls show Americans are more pro-life than ever before, with majorities favoring bans on partial-birth abortion and common-sense restrictions like state parental notification laws.

In the 2000 platform, the Democratic Party affirmed that having pro-lifers as a vibrant part of their coalition was "a sign of strength and not weakness." The platform in the Clinton years also insisted that the party envisioned abortion remaining legal but also rare and safe.

But in 2004, the big tent language was ripped out. Four years later, the Clintonian "safe, legal and rare" formulation was excised completely and replaced by a fuzzier statement about reducing unplanned pregnancies and hence, indirectly, "reduc[ing] the need for abortions."

Below you'll see the relevant portions of the Democratic Party's platform statements, as accessed from UC Santa Barbara's excellent American Presidency Project website. My emphasis is in bold:
1996:

The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay. President Clinton took executive action to make sure that the right to make such decisions is protected for all Americans. Over the last four years, we have taken action to end the gag rule and ensure safety at family planning and women's health clinics. We believe it is a fundamental constitutional liberty that individual Americans -- not government -- can best take responsibility for making the most difficult and intensely personal decisions regarding reproduction.

The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party.

Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing. For four years in a row, we have increased support for family planning. The abortion rate is dropping. Now we must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call on all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.

2000:

The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay. We believe it is a fundamental constitutional liberty that individual Americans - not government - can best take responsibility for making the most difficult and intensely personal decisions regarding reproduction. This year's Supreme Court rulings show to us all that eliminating a woman's right to choose is only one justice away. That's why the stakes in this election are as high as ever.

Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing. The abortion rate is dropping. Now we must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call on all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.

The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party. This is why we are proud to put into our platform the very words which Republicans refused to let Bob Dole put into their 1996 platform and which they refused to even consider putting in their platform in 2000: "While the party remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing its historic principles and ideals, we also recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing views on issues of personal conscience like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not as a sign of weakness, and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues. Recognizing that tolerance is a virtue, we are committed to resolving our differences in a spirit of civility, hope and mutual respect."

2004:

We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it. Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

2008:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

Again, remember, all that Democrats for Life wished to do was get something in writing that expressed that there is room in the tent for pro-lifers.

Here's what they quixotically proposed this summer to the platform committee:
 "We respect the conscience of each American and recognize that members of our Party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, like abortion and the death penalty. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues.

However, we can find common ground. We believe that we can reduce the number of abortions because we are united in our support for policies that assist families who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies. We believe that women deserve to have a breadth of options available as they face pregnancy: including, among others, support and resources needed to handle the challenges of pregnancy, adoption, and parenthood; access to education, healthcare, childcare; and appropriate child support. We envision a new day without financial or societal barriers to bringing a planned or unplanned pregnancy to term."

That's hardly a stringent proposal and it even lacked the 1996 party platform language that said pro-life Democrats were welcome not just in the party's "ranks" but at "every level."

But it was rejected.

Fortunately for pro-choice Democrats, the liberal media don't and won't care about the party's extremism on the issue. Equally fortunate for abortion lobbyists like Keenan, pro-life Democrats are willing to roll over and be good Democrats and beg four years from now for the respect that they most certainly will still not get.

Unfortunately for all Americans, a once great political party descends ever-deeper into a bloody absolutism on abortion that negates the dignity of the human person it claims to wish to protect.

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Ken Shepherd is the managing editor of NewsBusters.org and formerly a staff writer for the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. Ken graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland in 2001. He lives in New Carrollton, Md. with his wife and daughter. You can follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/kenshepherd.

The views expressed on TheFeeheryTheory.com are Ken’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of NewsBusters.org/ the Media Research Center.