AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
It’s understandable why pro-life Democrats want to hold onto hope. The history of the Democratic Party originally included pro-life figures such as Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. Yet as time went on, all of these figures surrendered to the demands of the national party that they change their positions. By 1999 pro-lifers in the party realized they were losing influence and founded Democrats for Life of America (DFLA). While that organization claims decent numbers of followers, its influence has only shriveled over its twenty-three-year existence.
Current DFLA president Kristen Day wrote in the Federalist in 2020 about her dogged holding on to her party, citing figures indicating 21 million pro-life Democratic voters in the country. She’s not wrong about the numbers, but even she admitted at the time that her party seemed desperately uninterested in those votes and doggedly interested in becoming more radical about their positions on abortion. Her hope has not been vindicated, and the trends themselves have continued.
The national Democrats have now determined to fight for publicly-funded and unlimited abortion. As for the first, though it failed in the final version, the Democrats initially stripped the Hyde Amendment, which blocks people from using Medicare and other federal healthcare funding programs to pay for abortions from their omnibus spending bill. So too with attempts at removing all limits to abortion restrictions. Amid failures, the party is digging in its heels and gut-punching its own members who try to go a different direction.
Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar is now the last pro-lifer in the House and the only one to vote against the Women’s Health Act in September, which would have removed all abortion restrictions throughout the nation. Yet the Washington Free Beacon reports that he is “on the ropes” because a strongly pro-abortion AOC protégé named Jessica Cisneros, who ran against him two years ago and lost by 3,000 votes, is running again. There is little support for Cuellar even though he has served since 2005 and much outside support for his opponent.
Joe Manchin may be safe for now, but he’s the only Democratic Senator to vote against the Women’s Health Act, which died in the Senate on Monday. He may well be chased away from the party at some point as Cuellar looks to be, and Dan Lipinski, the last pro-life Representative apart from Cuellar, was two years ago after sixteen years representing suburban Chicago. The thoroughly decent Lipinski wrote about his career and its end at the hands of the party he had served for so long after taking over the seat held by his pro-life Democratic father:
Politically speaking, I became a heretic in 2019, when the party took an even stronger stand for legal abortion. My pro-choice opponent was endorsed by a number of my Democratic colleagues in Congress, some local Democratic officeholders, and five Democratic presidential candidates. Locally, some Democrats who had endorsed me previously were obviously getting cold feet about supporting me. No one felt that they could get close to me for fear that they would be hurt politically by the association. And, of course, outside money kept pouring into my opponent.
Nor can one apparently hold any other office in the Democratic Party’s structure, even at the city level. Aaron “A. J.” Oliver, a gay Episcopal priest, has been facing pressure to resign as municipal chairman of the Democratic Party in Morristown, New Jersey because the liberal Democrat had his own pro-life heresy detected when he appeared in a DFLA video. That appearance initially led to a retraction of endorsements in his bid to take a GOP-held seat on the Morris County Board of Supervisors and now it has brought the calls to resign from his current unpaid position.
Elected and electable national politicians, gay liberal volunteers at the local level—none of it matters in today’s Democratic Party. Day herself told the Free Beacon in December 2021 that DNC Chair Jaime Harrison had not responded to nearly a dozen requests for a meeting with Day or other representatives of DFLA.
DFLA figures, including Oliver and Lipinski, like to talk about how they need to be Democrats because the party may be wrong about abortion but that it supports “whole life” measures. Implicitly agreeing with pro-abortion claims that pro-lifers don’t care about babies once they come out of the womb, such an argument really doesn’t hold water anymore, if it ever did.
Democrats not only want no limits on abortion but seem inclined in many places to move on to infanticide. Writing at Townhall, Spencer Brown covered the story of Senate Bill 669 and House Bill 626, working its way through the Maryland state legislature, is known as the “Pregnant Person’s Freedom Bill.” If the language implying men can get pregnant is not enough to make you sick, the bill’s actual contents will. It is designed to handicap investigations of newborn deaths that are unrelated to abortion, thus effectively paving the way for a kind of de facto allowance of infanticide. Brown notes that due to an outcry by the American Center for Law and Justice, the Senate version of the bill was revised—but the House’s version remains the same.
So too, with euthanasia. In October 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed into law SB 380, a revision to California’s assisted suicide laws that took effect on January 1, 2022, and reduces the waiting period for patients requesting doctors help them from fifteen to two days—and threatens doctors who refuse to either administer medications or forward on documentation of the request to other doctors with the loss of licensure. A number of doctors are suing the state with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, but nary a word is heard even from the DFLA, whose website lists assisted suicide as an issue.
It is true that Democrats remain committed to one pro-life issue: capital punishment. But it’s a bit awkward that the only time the party is unambiguously against killing is in the case of those who have already killed someone else. And this is part of the problem. Democrats such as Lipinski like to brag about their care for life, as shown in their gun control record. But cities such as Lipinski’s Chicago have incredibly strict regulations on firearms—and yet have notched horrific numbers of murders over the last few years. Rather than focus on gun control, politicians would be much more authentically “whole life” if they would focus on reversing the radical approaches to crime that have been adopted by radical district attorneys in these cities that have led to skyrocketing murder rates.
However you look at the issues, pro-life Democratic voters really don’t have a case for how they are changing their own party on abortion or euthanasia—or how they are successfully advocating for life in the middle. They would be more effective if they started to withhold their support from the party that is running from them as fast as possible—yet it depends upon their votes.
For most pro-lifers, the case to these Democratic brothers and sisters is that the Republican Party is not perfect, but it at least welcomes them and offers a number of politicians willing to stand up for life. Pro-life Democrats may not be ready for full-scale political conversion, I know, but they really need to do something.
One suggestion is that they put their political time, talent, and treasure into something else. The American Solidarity Party represents their views a lot better than the Democrats do. While that party hasn’t been able to build a large stable of candidates on the national level, a shifting of resources from the close to one-in-four pro-life Democratic voters has the possibility of forcing national and state-level Democrats’ hands. Maybe after a couple of electoral cycles, the party that depends on them but won’t return their calls will welcome them again. That would be good for the whole country.
They’ve had a good run of trying to fight the good fight in a party that’s become more and more opposed to them, but pro-life Democrats have really reached the end of the line. There is really no room for those who oppose abortion in their own party. The Democratic Party does not care whether abortion is rare (or really even safe), but only whether it is legal, increasingly whether it is legal all the way up until the moment of birth. And it has no use for people in its party who disagree. Nor can pro-life Dems rely on the notion that the Democratic Party may be wrong on abortion but is right on “whole life” issues. Democrats are continuing their assault on barriers to euthanasia for the elderly and disabled, and it is their policies and personnel that are responsible for the massive violent crime spikes that afflict people in Red zones. While they may not feel comfortable as Republicans—and many conservatives also feel ambivalent about the national party because of its establishment figures—pro-life Dems can sit out elections or support third parties that fit their actual beliefs.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.