Pro-life Democratic voters are warning the party and leading candidates that they must moderate their positions on abortion if they hope to have any chance of regaining ground lost to Republicans in recent years.
Activists affiliated with Democrats for Life of America held a press conference in Charleston ahead of the state's primary to voice their disgust with the Democratic candidates’ stances on abortion as nearly all of them oppose bans on late-term abortion and safety regulations on the abortion industry.
Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day said that in her 18-year career, right now is the most extreme she has ever seen the Democratic Party on abortion.
Since 2010, she warned, Democrats have lost their political advantages in southern states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana that have all flipped from blue to red.
In 2010, she said, Democrats had control of both houses of state legislatures and the governorships of 27 states. Today, that number is 15.
“During that time period, the Democratic Party moved away from ‘safe, legal and rare’ to today, [supporting] abortion up to nine months for any reason,” Day explained, adding that all of the Democratic presidential candidates who were on the debate stage Tuesday night support taxpayer funding of abortion, late-term abortions and “any type of reasonable regulations for health and safety during an abortion.”
“This is a truly extreme policy embraced by only 13 percent of South Carolina voters,” she noted. “The fact that the Democratic Party thinks they can win back South Carolina from Donald Trump by embracing a policy supported by only 13 percent of the voters is crazy. It’s even crazier that the Democratic Party leans on black voters and the black church for support but refuses to respect their deeply held values on life.”
Day pointed out that the only state in the South that is not under a Republican trifecta of control is Louisiana, where Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is avidly pro-life. Day considered him to be her “personal hero.”
“The South is especially important because it includes swing states where the right to life issue is critical,” she stressed. “The Democratic Party says it is serious about defeating Donald Trump but is ignoring millions of pro-life Democratic voters in these swing states.”
Polls have shown that majorities of Americans support regulations requiring doctors to show ultrasound images to women seeking an abortion and to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Additionally, polls have also shown that majorities of Americans support bans on abortion past certain points of pregnancy and oppose the use of tax dollars to pay for abortions.
A Marist poll from 2019 showed that about 6 in 10 self-identified pro-choice individuals believe that abortion should be restricted in the last 20 weeks of a pregnancy.
“We recognize that the Democratic Party exists to protect the weak, not the strong,” Day said. “We want our party to be strong. That is why we are calling on the candidates who are running for president right now to do five things.”
“These requests, if met, will attract voters back to the Democratic Party. Too many Democrats have left over this issue and we can bring them back if we moderate our position on abortion. If candidates continue to take for granted the pro-life vote, they might be surprised come November when voters stay home again like they did in 2016.”
Make room for pro-life voters
Day said that Democrats for Life is asking Democratic candidates to “commit to a place for pro-life voters in their coalitions.”
This request comes weeks after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that being pro-choice “is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.” Concerns were raised in 2017 after Democrat National Committee Chair Tom Perez asserted that the DNC would not support any candidates opposed to abortion.
Perez’s comment was admonished by prominent Democrats such as then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the time. His position was also refuted by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Luján, who said the party needs to support candidates that fit their district.
“We need every single vote to defeat Donald Trump in November,” Day said. “We can’t afford for voters to stay home like they did in 2016 because the leading candidates refused to embrace them and seek out our support. I appreciate that [Minnesota Sen.] Amy Klobuchar and [Hawaii Congresswoman] Tulsi Gabbard have moved in the direction of talking about embracing pro-life voters and opening the tent to people like me.”
Commit to a more moderate party platform
Democrats for Life asks that 2020 candidates and the party commit to a “platform that reflects the diversity of opinion on the issue of abortion.”
“We need in Democrats a diversity of opinion and support for candidates who represent their states and districts to stop the states from falling more into Republican hands,” Day asserted.
She said she would like to see “neutrality” on the abortion issue because party members have a “widespread position on this issue.”
“A majority of people are in the middle,” she stressed. “None of those people are represented in the platform. Pro-life Democrats were OK with ‘safe, legal and rare.’ We could live within those confines of saying, ‘Let’s have a goal to at least make it rare and unthinkable.’ Now, the tendency is to celebrate abortion as a great solution for women.”
“That is not true. It is not empowering to women, not helpful to women. We want to see the platform to be more focused on helping people.”
Support a new DNC chairman
As mentioned, DNC Chair Perez riled pro-life Democrats when he stated in 2017 that "every Democrat … should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health.” Perez added that it should not be negotiable and “should not change city by city or state by state."
“We ask the candidates to support a new DNC chairman who will carry out big-tent policies of inclusion for Democrats, instead of a chairman who says, ‘Pro-life people are welcome in the party as long as they keep their mouths shut and they don’t vote that way,’” Day said.
“This includes strongly opposing any litmus test proposed by Democratic groups and allies against pro-life candidates.”
Support a 20-week abortion ban
Several states passed or introduced legislation last year designed to ban abortion once a pre-born baby is viable and a heartbeat can be detected.
While some state-level bills [which courts have blocked] ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, there has been an unsuccessful effort at the federal level for years to pass bans on abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy through the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
“We ask that the candidates commit to protecting pre-born children after 20 weeks,” Day said. “Like a majority of Democratic voters, I believe there is nothing progressive nor feminist about violence against a fully-formed, viable, pre-born child. Thank you to Congresswoman Tusli Gabbard [who was not on the debate stage Tuesday] for recognizing this fact.”
Advocate for fewer abortions
According to Day, the party must at least get back to its advocacy for keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare.”
To keep abortion rare, Day stressed that Democrats need to advocate for such things as affordable childcare, better maternal health care (especially for black women) as well as more funding for adoption and paid parental leave.
Additionally, Day said the party must advocate for pregnancy resource centers that provide alternatives to abortion.
Although the abortion lobby has put up a fight against pro-life pregnancy centers, Day highlighted how important those centers are for women who are not looking to seek an abortion.
“These wonderful centers provide diapers, job training, anything that pregnant women and a new mother need to support their child,” she explained.