Political Hay

Pro-Life Democrats Need Not Apply

In its newly ratified platform, the Democratic Party reinvigorates its commitment to abortion.

By 8.27.08

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The Democratic Party has an abortion problem. Barack Obama, its presumptive presidential nominee, has compiled what one TAS writer described as a 110% pro-abortion record. The extra 10 percent comes from having twice voted against legislation to protect babies born alive after botched abortions. (Even the extreme abortion-rights group NARAL refused to oppose those bills.)

And the last two weeks have seen the party's top two leaders -- Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- baffled over questions about when they think human life begins.

Combine such cluelessness with poll numbers that reveal an increasingly pro-life electorate and the durability of abortion as a top concern for the party's most elusive voting bloc, evangelicals and other regular churchgoers, and it's easy to see why softening its pro-abortion image has soared to the top of the Democratic Party's to-do list.

But an examination of the party platform, ratified last Monday, reveals that the Democratic Party has no intention of moderating its extreme stance on abortion.

Party platforms do not typically garner a lot of attention in the media. But they matter immensely, because they are often the only place to get the party's official list of principles and policy goals. As in past election years, the 2008 Democratic Party platform re-affirms the party's commitment to Roe v. Wade and taxpayer funding of abortions. But this year the platform dropped any reference to the goal of making abortion "rare."

That goal -- fewer abortions -- was a mainstay in the platform for decades. And though it always seemed ridiculous, given that the party's policies have led to more than 50 million abortions (equal to the combined populations of 25 states) since Roe, the inclusion of "rare" as a policy objective showed that the Democratic Party at least acknowledged what most Americans believe: that 4,000 abortions a day is too many.

Pro-life Democrats urged the platform committee to include language about the need to reduce the number of abortions. Instead, the committee opted for language urging a reduction in "the need for abortion," and went on to discuss the importance of sex education programs and health care to achieve that end. That's an important distinction, because the ratified language implies that women with unintended pregnancies need to have abortions.

Some Democrats point to fresh platform language stating that the party "strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child..." as proof that the party has "softened" its approach to abortion. Liberal religious guru Jim Wallis told ABC News, "The language in the platform is a real step forward. For those women who want to take the child to term, it strongly supports that choice and provides necessary support." But highlighting this language only begs the question: Did the Democratic Party previously oppose a woman's decision to have a child?

NARAL President Nancy Keenan hailed the party's "strong pro-choice position," which "reaffirms, in the strongest of terms, the Democratic Party's solid commitment to a woman's right to choose as defined by Roe v. Wade." The new language also adds the word "unequivocally" to describe the party's support for abortion rights.

Keenan also seemed pleased to announce that as the abortion plank was being written, "no debates, changes or amendments were raised related to a woman's right to choose." That opposing views were never considered reveals just how committed the Democrats are to moderation on abortion.

Perhaps worst of all, the new platform language does not even recognize a moral dimension to abortion. In 2000, the platform declared, "The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party."

By omitting such language, the Democratic Party has revealed that it thinks people of goodwill cannot believe abortion is wrong. It has effectively stated: pro-life Americans need not apply to the Democratic Party. Which is ironic considering the theme of this year's convention: One America.

Democrats' omission of a "conscience clause" is even more ironic given what their leader has said about abortion. During his recent discussion with Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, Obama expressed "respect" for the views of pro-life advocates. In The Audacity of Hope, Obama calls abortion "undeniably difficult," "a very difficult issue," "never a good thing" and "a wrenching moral issue." He even laments his party's "litmus test" for "orthodoxy" on abortion.

Could it be that the Democratic Party's abortion position has become even more extreme than that of the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever?

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About the Author

Daniel Allott is a writer in Washington, D.C.