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.
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%.
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.