Much has been made of the Democratic Party's new platform plank on abortion. Jim Wallis has hailed the new language as "an historic step forward." Is it?
Well, Sen. Obama says that "words matter," so let's examine the actual words. It is true that the Democrats did add language stating that the party "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." This is good to know and does provide a certain moral symmetry to their promotion of tax-funded abortions through their support of "a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay."
Some observers, however, believe that the Democrats' abortion stance is actually more liberal than before. The Wall Street Journal's Naomi Schaefer Riley proclaimed? that it appeared that "the Democrats have accomplished the impossible: they have moved to the left on abortion" (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 20. 2008).
Why would Ms. Riley and others say this? It could be because the Democratic Party's Platform plank on abortion strengthens its support for Roe v. Wade by stating that it "strongly and unequivocally" supports Roe and that they "oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." The key words here are "unequivocally" and "any and all." These words taken together are about as inclusive an assertion of an absolute right to abortion as the English language is capable of mustering. Opposition to "any and all" attempts "to weaken or undermine" a woman's right to an abortion would include opposing bans on partial birth abortion.
While adding this incredibly expansive language, the platform writers also removed the "Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare" language found in the Democrats' 2004 Platform. No wonder that NARAL Pro-Choice America rhapsodized that the new platform language reaffirmed "in the strongest of terms" the "Democratic Party's solid commitment to a woman's right to choose."
Yes, words do matter. I applaud the efforts of those who tried to push the Democratic Party Platform in a pro-life direction. Alas, in spite of their efforts, the Democrats took one step forward and two steps back when it comes to protecting our nation's unborn citizens.
This column originally posted at Casting Stones, a blog hosted by Beliefnet.com.