The chairman of the Democratic National Committee believes that Democrat candidates cannot oppose abortion and run for office, marking the first time in history a party leader has said so formally. Advocates for the unborn on both sides of the aisle are voicing their disgust.
In a statement Friday, Tom Perez, who was Secretary of Labor during President Obama's second term and was elected to head the DNC on Feb. 25, said that "every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health."
Support for abortion, he continued, is "not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state" and that the party "must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice" in light of Republican and pro-life victories and every level.
"A party chair that describes abortion as a 'fundamental value' loses immediate credibility." said Arina Grossu, who heads the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council at the Washington-based Family Research Council in an email Monday to The CHristian Post.
"The Democratic Party promotes the killing of unborn babies through all 9 months of pregnancy while also demanding that taxpayers pay for it. This abortion platform is so extreme that it led to Trump's victory. Pro-life Democrats need to stand up and reclaim their party's platform," she said.
Perez's comments followed a back and forth episode between abortion rights advocates like NARAL who were angered with his initial backing of Democratic Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who has a pro-life voting record and was endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life in 2010.
Meanwhile, other prominent Democratic leaders are sending mixed signals.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday that "of course" it is possible to be pro-life and Democrat at the same time. 2016 presidential candidate and independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues to stand behind Mello's candidacy, saying Sunday on CBS Face the Nation the party needs to be pragmatic "if we're going to become a 50-state party."
But Perez's comments have upset some on the left, who are in agreement with the party's agenda except on this issue.
"For pro-life Democrats like myself, this wasn't just disappointing — it was infuriating," wrote Matthew Tyson at Millennial Journal Monday.
Tyson, a Catholic, is a marketing strategist and an advocate for pro-life ideology on the Left and is also a co-founder of The New Pro-Life Movement.
"We simply cannot afford to define ourselves based on a singular issue, especially one as divisive and alienating as abortion. As stated above, the Republicans have the majority at every level, and they are actively attempting to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance, roll back any progress we've made on combating climate change, cut benefits for the poor, and demolish public education," he said.
Likewise, writing under the pseudonym Healthcarewatcher on the left-wing site DailyKos, a frustrated pro-life Democrat noted that he was the product of a difficult pregnancy, praising his mother's choice to give him life.
"I was healthy at birth because my biological Mother received payments from Social Security Disability, received assistance with the purchase of food from what are now the SNAP and WIC programs, and received medical care from Medicaid. Those are the reasons I am not, and never will be, a Republican," he said.
Yet "[i]f we have become so ideologically driven as a party that people like me and former Congressman Bart Stupak are not welcome in the party because of our deeply held, and deeply personal, pro-life views, we will never return to the majority," he continued.
An April 2016 Pew poll shows that 28 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases as do 14 percent of self-identified liberals.