What should the Democratic Party do with its pro-life members? Over at The Atlantic, Clare Foran reports that the politics of abortion threaten to divide the party.
Here is a taste:
Ahead of an event on Thursday where Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who remains the left’s most popular figure, was slated to appear with Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s deputy chair, and Heath Mello, an Omaha, Nebraska Democratic mayoral candidate, NARAL Pro-Choice America, an organization that endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, harshly criticized the DNC for what it called the party’s “embrace” of “an anti-choice candidate.”
The statement followed a report in The Wall Street Journal that Mello once supported legislation “requiring women to look at ultrasound image of their fetus before receiving an abortion.” The liberal website Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello over the report.
On Thursday, Mello told The Huffington Post, however, that he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care,” if elected. Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and board member of Our Revolution, a group that emerged out of the embers of the Sanders campaign, said in an interview that The Wall Street Journal and NARAL had “mischaracterized” Mello’s legislative record.
“Heath is a strong progressive Democrat, and he is pro-life, and you can be both things,” Kleeb said, adding: “What Heath did actually was stop a bill to make ultrasounds mandatory by getting Republicans in our legislature to agree to make them voluntary.”
Mello’s vow did not satisfy NARAL, however. “It’s not enough to issue a statement for political expediency when your record is full of anti-choice votes,” Ilyse Hogue, the organization’s president, said in a follow-up statement. “The Democratic Party’s support of any candidate who does not support the basic rights and freedoms of women is disappointing and politically stupid.”
Read the entire piece here.
I did not think the pro-life faction of the Democratic Party was that strong. Or at least I have not heard the divisions in the Party framed this way recently. I assumed that pro-life Democrats lost all power in the Party sometimes shortly after the election of Bill Clinton.
If you want some perspective on how the Democrats became a pro-choice party I recommend Daniel K. Williams’s book Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade (Oxford 2016). Before you go out and buy the book you may want to hear Williams talk about the history of the pro-life movement in Episode 2 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.
As I have argued, particularly in a piece I published a couple of years ago in USA Today, the modern Democratic Party should really be the party of life.