The Democrat Party's challenges on abortion continued this weekend with the re-election of Louisiana’s pro-life Democratic governor while a prominent national Democratic political action committee instituted an abortion litmus test for its support.
Days after Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards secured re-election in a highly conservative state, the Democratic Attorneys General Association announced that candidates for attorneys general nationwide must support expanded access to abortion if they want the group’s backing.
“From here forward, the Democratic Attorneys General Association will only endorse candidates who stand with the majority of Americans who support protecting reproductive rights,” the organization announced in a video posted online.
DAGA was formed in 2002 to support Democrats running for the office of attorneys general in U.S. states and territories. The office of the attorney general is usually the top legal office in a given state.
According to The New York Times, DAGA became the first national party committee to explicitly state that it will refuse to support any candidate that does not support “reproductive rights,” meaning access to abortion.
DAGA’s video bashed bills designed to restrict abortion access and claimed that a majority of Americans believe in a “woman’s right to choose.” DAGA’s decision comes as several states this year passed legislation designed to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected or earlier in gestation. One of those bills was signed by the Democrat, Edwards, in Lousiana.
Although the move by DAGA will not effect Edwards as a governor, it could impact Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who is the only one of 27 Democrat attorney generals that consider himself to be a “pro-life Democrat.”
“Attorney’s general are the frontlines in the fight for reproductive freedom,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in the DAGA video. “They have the power to protect your rights and we have the power to elect them. It’s your body, your family, your choice, your vote. If they stand with us, they stand with you.”
The move by DAGA follows comments made by Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in April 2017. In a statement at the time, Perez claimed that "every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health."
He went on to say that support for abortion rights is "not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.” He added that the party "must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”
Perez’s statement was criticized by prominent Democrats such as then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who warned against the dangers of the party alienating pro-life Democrats.
A few months later in July 2017, Democrat Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, who serves as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, stated that 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," Luján said at the time.
The Republican Attorneys General Association Executive Director Adam Piper called DAGA's new litmus test “out of touch.”
In a statement to The Christian Post, Piper said: "The only litmus test for an attorney general should be a belief in the rule of law and the courage to defend and uphold the constitution. The Democrats demonstrated once again how out of touch and desperate they are to receive funding from dangerously progressive special interest groups who support using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund late-term and third trimester abortions."
DAGA’s announcement Monday also received criticism from prominent Democrats as well, considering that a small number of pro-life Democrats hold important offices in rural areas such as Gov. Edwards and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. There are also at least three pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Critics are concerned about what impact DAGA’s move could have on Democrats running in rural areas that lean more conservative.
Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who lost her seat in a red state after voting against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, told The New York Times that the move by DAGA is “wrongheaded.”
She cited the example of Edwards, who won as a Democrat in deep-red Louisiana while campaigning on his opposition to abortion. Edwards signed the state’s “heartbeat” bill into law in May.
“There are very principled people, who are Democrats, who feel very strongly about this issue for religious reasons and when you say you’re not welcome in our party I think it is exclusionary,” Heitkamp said. “You have to look at the totality of a candidate.”
Even though Edwards is more conservative than the average Democrat on the issue of abortion, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done other things that liberals approve of.
For example, Edwards rescinded an order issued by former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal early in his tenure as governor in 2017. The order protected business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings.