We need to protect pro-life voices in the Democratic Party

By Kristen Day (Democrats for Life of America)

Pro-life Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07) is under attack by the Republican establishment.

On January 14, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) released its endorsement for Minnesota’s 7th congressional district, endorsing Michelle Fischbach, an “accomplished pro-life leader,” over the incumbent.

The thing is – the representative for Minnesota’s 7th congressional district, already endorsed by NRLC on multiple occasions, is already pro-life.  Collin Peterson has voted multiple times to end late-term abortion and even co-sponsored legislation to end sex-selective abortion. In 1999, when President Donald Trump claimed to be “pro-choice in every respect”, Rep. Peterson was working to ban the transportation of minors across state lines for an abortion.  Since 1991, he has been one of the most reliable pro-life votes in the House. In 2019, he co-signed a letter urging President Trump to veto any legislation violating pro-life causes. In 2020, he signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

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What gives?

Two things.

First, Rep. Peterson is a Democrat. Since 2010, NRLC’s PAC has supported exclusively Republican candidates, which is a  bit rich for a supposedly “non-partisan” organization, in a world in which pro-life Democrats do exist, albeit in small numbers.

Second, Collin Peterson’s Republican opponent has a minor leg-up in this situation. Ms. Fischbach, who has  previously served as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, is not only married to the Executive Director, Scott Fischbach, of NRLC’s Minnesota affiliate but also daughter to NRLC’s Executive Assistant Director, Darla St. Martin.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Ms. Fischbach’s mother and husband like her enough to vote for her in a political election. We should be outraged, though, that they would use the resources and political capital of organizations in which they are paid employees to benefit a family member. This is nepotism, plain and simple.

The NRLC had a distinguished beginning as one of the most principled and progressive pro-life organizations, supporting pro-life people of all strips in the name of social justice. Today, it looks more and more like part of the staid Republican establishment.

The pro-life movement will only be able to make progress in the long-term if we have voices advocating for pre-born children on both sides of the aisle. Right now, Rep. Peterson is one of only three pro-life voices in the Democratic caucus. We need to protect these voices, because if we don’t – we tacitly surrender to the other side.

Culling pro-life Democrats from Congress makes abortion a partisan issue, not a human rights issue. The sub-text is that the lives of pre-born children have protection conditional on Republican control of the chamber.

Vulnerable children and mothers facing crisis pregnancies deserve more than conditional protection: they deserve human rights and legislative protection – come rain or shine, Republican or Democrat.

More than anything, the rights of unborn children shouldn’t be sacrificed to the personal political ambitions of individuals.

Rep. Peterson, a popular incumbent in a Republican-leaning and overwhelmingly pro-life district, is in one of the best positions to keep advocating for pro-life causes in the Democratic caucus, far into the future. Minnesotans support him because of his advocacy for farmers and willingness to promote bipartisan causes. Unlike other members of Congress, his primary goal is to work for his constituents – not corporations.

Pro-life Minnesotans need to rally around Rep. Peterson, who has been a courageous voice for life – even in the face of an increasingly single-minded Democratic Party.

We are Democrats, and we support the Democratic Party on most causes of today, although we’re fighting to change its extremism on abortion, forced on us by a vocal minority. We also believe that being pro-life means being pro-life for the whole life – fighting, for example, to secure paid parental leave as a way to secure a safer future for both women and children.

But we call on all pro-life advocates to rally around a solid and principled congressional advocate for local causes, who also plays a valuable role in promoting pro-life causes.

We have hundreds of “pro-life” Republicans in Congress. Pro-life representation matters, but we also have to recognize that despite controlling all three centers of power for years – Republicans failed to defund Planned Parenthood or ban horrific late-term abortion, which tears to pieces a fully formed child.

We only have a handful of pro-life Democrats – and their relative importance in changing the national conversation and persuading Democrats on the fence to change their mind cannot be understated.

Something stinks in Minnesota’s 7th congressional district, and it has everything to do with personal political ambition. Our cause matters more than that.

Kristen Day is Executive Director of Democrats for Life of America. Xavier Bisits is a board member.