Twenty-nine percent of Democrats identify as pro-life, according to Gallup. The leading Democratic presidential candidates don’t want any of those people in their party.
“Is there such a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision of the party?” MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle asked Sen. Bernie Sanders last week at an event sponsored by the pro-abortion group NARAL.
“I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat,” Sanders said. He then added, “By this time in history, I think when we talk about what a Democrat is, being pro-choice is an essential part of that.”
Sanders is currently the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s running neck-and-neck with Pete Buttigieg, who also wants to ostracize those who support abortion restrictions.
“Criminalizing women or criminalizing their doctors is simply not consistent with the values that draw me to the Democratic Party,” Buttigieg said in response to the same question.
At a Fox News town hall last month, Kristen Day, a pro-life Democrat, asked Buttigieg if he wanted “the support of pro-life Democratic voters? There are 21 million of us.” She didn’t ask him to change his position, but if he’d be willing to adjust the Democratic Party platform. In 1996, that document said Democrats’ “goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare.”
“The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion,” the 1996 platform read. “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 2016, Democrats had removed that language, stating instead that Democrats “believe unequivocally” in abortion, including taxpayer-funded abortions.
Buttigieg was unwilling to offer even a rhetorical olive branch. “I support the position of my party,” he said.
These hard-line stances risk alienating the millions of pro-life Democrats, not to mention the general public. Even among pro-abortion Democrats, there is more support for abortion restrictions than you might think.
Forty-four percent of Democrats said they’d prefer to vote for a candidate who supported substantial abortion restrictions. These include abortion being allowed only during the first three months of pregnancy or only in the case of rape, incense or to save a mother’s life. Thirty-four percent of Democrats believe the Supreme Court should allow states to pass laws restricting abortion. Thirty-five percent of Democrats oppose using tax dollars to fund abortions. These results come from a Marist Poll released last month.
This approach is so foolhardy that even Sanders rejected it as recently as 2017. That’s when he appeared at a rally with Heath Mello, a Democrat who was running to be mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Mello was very liberal on economic issues and pro-life. He once sponsored a bill requiring that doctors tell women about the availability of ultrasounds before an abortion. NARAL blasted Sanders’ decision, declaring it “disappointing” and “politically stupid.” Sanders tried to defend himself by noting that his appearance was necessary “if we’re going to become a 50-state party.” With his statement last week, Sanders has abandoned that priority in pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination.
It’s one thing to be part of a group that tolerates respectful disagreements. It’s another thing when the leaders of that group say your beliefs are anathema.
Pro-life Democrats should take Sanders and Buttigieg’s hints and leave the party.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.