In field of Demo­cratic hope­fuls, not one is pro-life Whole bloc of party now ‘to­tally ig­nored’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The field of po­ten­tial Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates is ex­pected to be the largest in his­tory — yet none of the two dozen names be­ing bandied about is a pro-lifer.

As the party moves fur­ther to the left on abor­tion, push­ing for fewer re­stric­tions and more pub­lic fund­ing, it has be­come al­most un­think­able for a pro-life Democrats to make a na­tional run.

One Demo­crat who might have checked that box, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Penn­syl­va­nia, an­nounced last month that he won’t run.

Pro-life Democrats have hopes that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, elected as a pro-life can­di­date in 2015, will throw his hat into the ring — in 2024. They have all but given up hope of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in next year’s field.

Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Vir­ginia, one of the last stand­ing pro-life voices in the party’s ranks, said the prospect of the field be­ing 100 per­cent pro-choice raises con­cerns about the mes­sage the party is send­ing.

“I think it is a big mis­take,” Mr. Manchin told The Wash­ing­ton Times. In states like West Vir­ginia, he said, vot­ers can be pro-life and be Demo­crat or Re­pub­li­can. “In Wash­ing­ton, it is a lit­tle bit more of a chal­lenge.” Pro-life move­ment lead­ers say they are not sur­prised. “If there was a pro-life Demo­crat who was ac­tu­ally run­ning for pres­i­dent and a se­ri­ous con­tender that they would al­low on stage — that would be the news story,” said Tony Perkins, head of the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil, a con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian group.

Carol To­bias, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Right to Life Com­mit­tee, said “the abor­tion in­dus­try is run­ning the [Demo­cratic Party].”

“There is a sig­nif­i­cant bloc of pro-life Democrats that are just be­ing to­tally ig­nored by the na­tional party and, of course, now its pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates,” Ms. To­bias said.

A voter de­liv­ered a sim­i­lar warn­ing to Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren dur­ing her first swing through Iowa this year, telling the Mas­sachusetts Democrats that her pow­er­ful mes­sages on health care and an­titrust laws get lost when she talks about “re­pro­duc­tive rights” be­cause a lot of vot­ers in the Mid­west “hear the words mur­der­ing ba­bies.”

“I know that these are very hard, per­sonal fam­ily de­ci­sions. I think the role of gov­ern­ment here is to back out,” Ms. War­ren re­sponded, spark­ing ap­plause from the au­di­ence.

Things are dif­fer­ent in the Re­pub­li­can Party, where pro-choice can­di­dates reg­u­larly en­ter the race. They don’t of­ten get far, as for­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani found out in 2008 and for­mer New York Gov. Ge­orge E. Pataki found out in 2016.

Dur­ing one 2016 Re­pub­li­can pri­mary de­bate, a mod­er­a­tor re­minded Mr. Pataki that a pro-choice Re­pub­li­can had not won a sin­gle pres­i­den­tial pri­mary con­test in 35 years.

The last high-pro­file pro-life Demo­crat to run for pres­i­dent was Jimmy Carter in 1976, ac­cord­ing to Kris­ten Day, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of pro-life Democrats.

A num­ber of oth­ers started out pro-life but adopted pro-choice stances in time to run for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. Among them are for­mer Vice Pres­i­dents Al Gore and Joseph R. Bi­den, for­mer Rep. Richard Gephardt and the Rev. Jesse Jack­son.

“They change their po­si­tion be­cause they know the abor­tion lobby has a stran­gle­hold on their party,” Ms. Day said. “The re­al­ity of the Demo­cratic Party is that it has gone pretty far left on this is­sue.”

While the Democrats lurch to the left, Repub­li­cans are in­creas­ingly pulled to the right.

Dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign, Don­ald Trump was re­peat­edly con­fronted with his state­ments from 1999 op­pos­ing re­stric­tions on late-term abor­tion and declar­ing, “I am very pro-choice.”

Gallup track­ing polls show 50 per­cent of vot­ers be­lieve abor­tion should be le­gal in some cir­cum­stances, while 29 per­cent be­lieve the pro­ce­dure should be le­gal all the time and 18 per­cent want it com­pletely barred.

Roughly half of vot­ers say they con­sider them­selves pro-life and the other half pro-choice.

On Capi­tol Hill, those forces now di­vide fairly cleanly along party lines.

The num­ber of pro-life Democrats can be counted on a sin­gle hand. The same can be said about pro-choice Repub­li­cans.

In 2017, newly elected Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair Tom Perez ig­nited a firestorm when he said, “Ev­ery Demo­crat, like ev­ery Amer­i­can, should sup­port a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”

Mr. Perez went on dam­age con­trol, say­ing that be­ing pro-choice was not a “lit­mus test.”

That com­ment, though, an­gered Planned Par­ent­hood and NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica, which has spent heav­ily on be­half of Democrats who sup­port abor­tion.

“Yes, in­deed, there is a lit­mus test,” Ms. Day said. “He may say there is not, but there is.”

Rep. Daniel Lip­in­ski of Illi­nois, one of the few pro­life Democrats in Congress, learned that les­son the hard way last year. His pri­mary chal­lenger, Marie New­man, cap­tured the sup­port of NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica and Emily’s List, and even drew back­ing from Sen. Bernard San­ders, a Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent who, iron­i­cally, Mr. Lip­in­ski sup­ported in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

“I think that speaks a lot about Bernie San­ders,” Mr. Lip­in­ski told The Times. “But yeah, it is dif­fi­cult to be pro-life and be in the Demo­cratic Party, but I am go­ing to keep go­ing and keep fight­ing.”

Mr. Lip­in­ski cred­ited the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, the cam­paign arm for House Democrats, for stick­ing with him in the pri­mary and not bow­ing to pres­sure from the pow­er­ful pro-choice lobby.

Still, he said the party’s im­age among pro-life vot­ers has been dam­aged and that it won’t help if the pres­i­den­tial field doesn’t in­clude a sin­gle can­di­date who shares his pro-life views.

“I think that just look­ing at it from the build­ing the party as­pect that we can’t keep push­ing pro-life vot­ers out of the Demo­cratic Party be­cause I cer­tainly have peo­ple come up to me all the time back home and tell me they used to be a Demo­crat, but they feel like they can’t any­more be­cause the voter is pro-life,” Mr. Lip­in­ski said. “I think it es­pe­cially hurts in places that we re­ally need if we are ever go­ing to pick up any of the seats out­side of met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas.”


Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Penn­syl­va­nia is a pro-life Demo­crat, but he is not run­ning for pres­di­ent.

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