Most Texans oppose abortion on demand. Does the Democratic Party want our vote?

By Jordan Kizer (Democrats for Life of Texas)

In Texas, 64% of voters with an opinion want restrictions on abortion, including large minorities of even Democratic voters. In spite of this, the Texas Democratic Party is doubling down on extremist policies barely embraced by any voters.

This week, the Texas Democratic Party will be meeting for its first-ever virtual convention. The Texas Democratic Party rightly calls Texas a battleground state. But the Texas Democratic Party’s beliefs on abortion are radically out of line with the state they want to win. Its 2018 platform is even more extreme than its national equivalent.

It demands that adolescents be able to access abortion without parental notification. It calls for an end to all funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which provide ultrasounds and maternity wear to vulnerable women. It opposes reasonable regulation of abortion providers, such as legislation proposed by Democrat Katrina Jackson in Louisiana. It identifies no restrictions whatsoever on abortion that it would support.

Worse, it goes out on a limb to declare that the pre-born child is worth absolutely nothing: “The product of a joined egg and sperm has no independent status,” it claims. This anti-science stance directly conflicts with the 95% of biologists who affirm that life begins at fertilization. I worry that this week, the Texas Democratic Party will double down on these extreme positions as it votes to update its platform.

The 2016 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

I’m not worried about this abortion extremism because I’m a “family values” Republican looking to pick a partisan fight. I’m outraged because I’m a Democrat, and this is my party. I am a pro-Union Democrat who supports a living wage, expanded health care, paid family leave, and other pro-woman policies. Like the one in three Democrats who identify as pro-life, I support legal protection for both women and pre-born children. We believe that a just and progressive society responds to the problem of abortion with pro-women policies: childcare, adoption funding, and better maternal health care, especially for black women, who are facing a mortality crisis.

Abortion extremism is a betrayal of Democratic values: our concern for the oppressed, our belief in the fundamental equality of all persons, and our rejection of violence.

Most relevant to November, it’s also a recipe for electoral suicide. Unless the Democratic Party moderates its support for abortion rights, I worry that the Republican Party will sweep states like Texas on November 3. Donald Trump is already exploiting the abortion issue to cast Democrats as extremists. I fear that pro-life Democrats and Independents will either vote Republican or stay at home, giving Republicans a victory by default.

In critical swing states in the South, majorities of Democrats and Independents support common-sense measures to protect life.  51% of Democrats in Texas support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Among Independents, it’s even more: 70%.

File:Henry Cuellar, official portrait, 115th congress.jpg - Wikipedia
Rep. Henry Cuellar from Texas has voted for some pro-life bills in the House of Representatives.

If the Democratic Party takes its moral duty to defeat Republicans seriously, it will try to bridge the gap with pro-life voters. There is plenty of room for diversity in welcoming pro-life voters into their coalition, committing to finding common ground, and strategically agreeing to run pro-life candidates in pro-life districts.

Increasingly, though, pro-life Democrats are stonewalled. In 2017, DNC Chair Tom Perez described support for abortion as “non-negotiable.”  In 2019, the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) installed an abortion litmus test prohibit pro-life Democrats from running.

Frankly, at this point, there’s not a lot to lose. With elective abortion on demand and targeted attacks on elected pro-life Democrats like Henry Cuellar, one struggles to see how the Democratic Party could become anymore extreme.

Pro-life values are about compassion, non-violence, and the equality of all human beings. They are fundamentally compatible with Democratic values, and we refuse to allow the Democratic Party to continue to push pro-life voters into the arms of right-wing Republicans.

Jordan Kizer holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the LBJ School in Austin, Texas, and currently serves as an Organizing Director for Democrats for Life of America.

Why we’re calling on the Democratic Party to reject abortion extremism

By Kristen Day (Democrats for Life of America)

For years, the Democratic Party’s official platform has been inching towards a more extreme policy on abortion. In 2016, that approach reached its nadir: elective, taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.

Unlike the 2004 Democratic Party platform, which included just four sentences on the topic, the 2016 version takes 15 sentences to spell out the most extreme imaginable position on abortion. Taxpayer-funding of abortion, in both the US and overseas. “Unequivocal” support of legal abortion, with no exceptions. It even makes a specific plea for better access to abortion for veterans.

What the 2016 platform omits to say is just as important. It doesn’t commit to making abortion “rare,” nor does it recognize the diversity of thought on abortion within the Democratic Party. In fact, previous versions of the platform in the 1990s and 2000s included precisely this language.

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I’m a Democrat for the same reason that I’m anti-abortion. I believe the state should protect the weak, not the strong. I believe that ending a life is never a reasonable solution to a problem. I believe that a just and progressive society responds to the problem of abortion with pro-women policies: childcare, adoption funding, and better maternal health care, especially for black women, who are facing a mortality crisis. 

Abortion extremism betrays the Democratic concern for the little guy: there are few human beings more vulnerable than the pre-born child.

Worse, we worry that in November the Demcratic Party will suffer tremendously because of its extreme position on abortion.

In critical swing states in the South, narrow majorities of Democrats and overwhelming majorities of Independents support commonsense measures to protect life.  Among Independents, 66% in Florida,  72% in North Carolina, and 80% in Georgia support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

In my open letter, I’m asking the Democratic Platform Committee to consider some of these concessions in its 2020 platform, to help it better reflect the beliefs of many Democrats across the country.

For years, my organization has been trying to cooperate with the Democratic leadership to build a space for pro-life thinking into the party, in a spirit of diversity and inclusion. Increasingly, we are stonewalled: DNC Chair Tom Perez and the Democratic Attorneys General Association have made it clear that support for abortion is “non-negotiable.” In 2020, to my face, Pete Buttigieg declined to support inclusive language on pro-life Democrats in the Party platform.

Kristen Day: Buttigieg and 2020 hopefuls, don't cancel 21 million ...

Frankly, at this point, we don’t have a lot to lose. With elective abortion on demand and targeted attacks on elected pro-life Democrats, I struggle to see how the 2020 Party platform could be even more extreme than it was in 2016 – but it’s possible. Ilyse Hogue, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is once again on the Platform Committee. Earlier this year, she described me as a “dishonest broker” wielding “abortion as a weapon for an agenda that is just about control and reproductive oppression.” I have no doubt Hogue and her allies, which include a Planned Parenthood executive, will attempt to institutionalize a litmus test on abortion.

It’s never a bad time to speak up in favor of human rights. But there’s never been a more urgent time for the 21 million pro-life Democrats in this country to put pressure on the party they belong to. 

Kristen Day is Executive Director of Democrats for Life of America.

You can read her Open Letter to the Platform Committee here.

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.