By Jonathon Van Maren
The Democratic Party is facing calls to abandon its abortion extremism in a letter sent last Friday to the Democratic National Committee, spearheaded by Democrats for Life and signed by over 100 professors of religion, Christian pastors, and others. Specifically, the letter asks the Democrats to amend the party platform and rescind support for federal funding for abortion and the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden supported the Hyde Amendment as recently as last year, but a little light pressure from the party’s progressive wing prompted him to drop the position he had held for nearly half a century overnight. Biden, who was once considered an “unreliable” legislator by abortion rights groups, is now fronting the most radical pro-abortion agenda of any Democratic nominee, ever. Sleepy Joe may seem harmless, but on abortion, he’s playing for keeps.
The letter calls on the Democratic platform committee to “recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth” and urges them to “reject a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party.” Signatories included Rev. Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, who served on Obama’s faith advisory council, and John DeBerry, a long-time Democrat and Tennessee state rep removed from a party partially due to his pro-life voting record.
Earlier this year, long-time Democrat Dr. Charles Camosy of Notre Dame University (the author of several fascinating books on the abortion wars) resigned from Democrats for Life and penned a scathing editorial in the New York Post explaining why. While he once hoped that Democrats could be persuaded that pro-lifers had a place in the party, he wrote, he now recognized that it was “a losing battle.” In short, he stated: “Anything even hinting that abortion is less than good now violates party orthodoxy.”
The current executive director of Democrats for Life, Kristen Day, appears close to reaching the same conclusion. The letter, she told the press, should serve as a warning to Democratic. Abortion extremism has the potential to turn off many pro-life voters, which according to Camosy’s estimate may make up a third of the Democratic base. The risk the Democrats run in pushing those voters off the platform and out of the party is that they may decide to go elsewhere. “It’s hugely important for the campaign and Vice President Biden to understand the importance of this vote,” Day noted. “It shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
This is not the first time pro-life progressives have attempted to gain acceptance in the Democratic Party. Back in 2017, the then-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced that the Democrats would not longer apply a “litmus test” on abortion—specifically, that financial backing would not be withheld from anti-abortion candidates in the 2018 midterms. This ineffectual announcement was widely seen as a move to court pro-life voters turned off by President Trump. In the interim, Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry have tightened, not loosened, their grip on the Democratic Party.
In fact, the last attempt to persuade the Democratic Party to abandon support for abortion with a real chance of success took place back in 1992 and was spearheaded by the Kennedy clan’s sole defender of pre-born children, Eunice Shriver. As Ross Douthat noted in her obituary, Shriver “participated in the last significant effort to push the Democratic Party away from abortion on demand, petitioning her party’s convention to consider ‘a new understanding’ of the issue, ‘one that does not pit mother against child,’ but instead seeks ‘policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.’” On July 24, 1992, Eunice and Sargent Shriver, along with Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey and other pro-life leaders, signed their names to a full-page ad in the New York Times titled “The New American Compact”:
We can choose to reaffirm our respect for human life. We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children. And if we make those choices, America will experience a new birth of freedom, bringing with it a renewed spirit of community, compassion, and caring.
If the Democrats had chosen to follow the path of Eunice Shriver rather than that of her brother Teddy Kennedy, the Clintons, and the abortion extremists that followed, the American political landscape would look much different. If abortion had not unfortunately become such a partisan issue, it is safe to say that America would be a radically different country. And who knows—if the Democrats had not chosen to become the party of taxpayer-funded abortion until birth, maybe Joseph R. Biden wouldn’t have sold his soul to Planned Parenthood in a bid to trade blood for power.