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Democratic Party leader grilled on claiming pro-choice view ‘non-negotiable’ for Democrats

Democratic Party leader grilled on claiming pro-choice view ‘non-negotiable’ for Democrats

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez in an interview on the program "Axios on HBO" uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, March 15, 2020. | Screengrab: YouTube/Axios

The head of the Democratic National Committee was pressed on his past remarks claiming that Democrats had to support abortion, eventually citing the Bible to argue that President Donald Trump does not support those in need.

DNC Chair Tom Perez was interviewed on Sunday on the program “Axios on HBO” regarding comments he made in 2017 saying that supporting abortion was “non-negotiable” for Democrats. Jonathan Swan asked Perez if that meant Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards should quit the Democratic Party due to his signing a strict anti-abortion bill into law.

“I respect Governor Edwards,” responded Perez, who ultimately disagreed that Edwards had to leave the Party. “I profoundly disagree with his position on this issue.”

“It’s not only about a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, it’s about women’s economic empowerment.”

Swan pressed Perez on the issue, noting that the chair had used the term “non-negotiable” when discussing the matter of abortion, to which Perez reiterated his disagreement with Edwards on the issue and added, “I think I speak for most Democrats in saying that.”

Swan then quoted prominent Roman Catholic Church leader Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who in response to Perez’s 2017 comments had stated that it “weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.”

The DNC chair claimed that most Catholics actually voted Democrat in 2016, then referenced Matthew 25 in arguing that President Donald Trump has abandoned biblical values.

“Matthew 25 says, you know, ‘when you are hungry, I fed you. When you were naked, I provided you with clothing. When you were an immigrant, I welcomed you,’” said Perez.

“I think one of the reasons why so many people are moving away from Donald Trump is that he’s abandoned all of those values.”

He added that he could not understand how people could “go to Donald Trump rallies and then they will go to church on Sunday,” claiming that “Trump has done more to hurt the least of us, among us, than just about any president I can think of.”

John Hirschauer of the National Review was among those who was critical of Perez’s comments during the interview and his usage of the Bible passage in his arguments.

“The imperative to charity [in Matthew 25] is clearly construed as one that obtains to the individual, an imperative that is not fulfilled merely by voting for a politician who promises to use the threat of force to expropriate the wealth of one’s neighbor,” wrote Hirschauer.

“As for Perez’s concern for the ‘least of these’ – I can hardly think of a more vulnerable human being in our society than the unborn child that his party supports killing up until the moment of birth. Something Perez might contemplate if he reads the Last Judgment parable through to its end.”

In April 2017, Perez garnered controversy when he announced that the Party would no longer support any Democratic candidates who identified as pro-life on the abortion issue.

"Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health," he stated at the time.

"At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country ... we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice."

That July, U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, contradicted Perez, saying there would be no “litmus test” on abortion.

“As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America,” he explained in 2017.

More recently, during the Democratic primary season, there has been much debate over how welcoming the Party will be toward pro-life members and their policy views.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for example, said at a town hall event in Concord, New Hampshire last month that being pro-choice was “essential” to being a Democrat.

“By this time in history, I think when we talk about what a Democrat is, I think being pro-choice is an essential part of that,” stated Sanders.

Around the same time, then candidate U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said that the party should be accepting of pro-life Democrats.

“I believe we are a big tent party and there are pro-life Democrats and they are part of our party,” said Klobuchar, who has a staunch pro-choice voting record in the Senate.

“I think we need to build a big tent. I think we need to bring people in instead of shutting them out. That also includes independents right here in New Hampshire and moderate Republicans.”

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