Democrats and abortion

by Jimmy Akin

in Uncategorized

SDG here with an interesting commentary challenging the Democrats to “do better” on abortion.

I wish they would. My blood is not Republican red. I would vote for a pro-life Democrat in a heartbeat, if for no other reason than to make the point.

Lefties often say that the pro-life movement has a stranglehold on the Republican party. The truth is closer to the other way around. Between the two major parties, the Democratic Party has allowed the Republicans to have a monopoly on pro-life candidates — and voters.

And, for reasons rather well laid out in Catholic Answers’ “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics, I find it necessary to give black-and-white issues like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage priority over other issues about which men of good will, including Catholics, may in good faith legitimately dispute.

But the Republicans didn’t always have a monopoly on concern over protecting the weakest of the weak. To be a pro-life Democrat wasn’t always a virtual contradiction in terms. In fact, there’s still a pro-life movement within the Democratic Party, though party bosses won’t give them a voice. According to this article, a recent gathering of Democrats for Life included:

  • Thomas Finneran, Massachusetts House Speaker
  • Bob Casey Jr., auditor general of my former state of Pennsylvania and son of Robert Casey Sr., the late pro-life former governor of Pennsylvania
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of JFK, wife of pro-life Boston Democrat Sargent Shriver, and mother of Maria Shriver, California’s first lady
  • Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston and ambassador to the Vatican

However, according to an article in the paper I write for, the National Catholic Register, Democrats For Life were not allowed to have a visible presence at the Democratic National Convention — no banners, no signs, etc. Planned Parenthood, OTOH, was a highly visible presence at the convention.

And while party chairman Terry McAuliffe made noises that there would be no ban on pro-life speakers at the convention, and touted the appearance of pro-life Rep. James Langevin from Rhode Island, Langevin’s topic was one on which, unlike abortion, he is not pro-life, embryonic stem cell research.

So, for all intents and purposes, the Democratic establishment brooks no dissent, at least so far. But perhaps Democrats for Life will be effective in bringing about some change in the Democratic party. Perhaps the Democrats will do better in the future, and again extend their traditional concern for the weak and powerless to the weakest of all. If they gave us a choice, I think they’d be surprised how many default Republicans there are who would vote for a pro-life Democrat.

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{ 12 comments }

Esquire August 19, 2004 at 10:18 am

What I cannot understand is how a pro-life voter can consider the Republican Party pro-life in the broad sense, or even more specifically anti-abortion.
The leader of the party, now living in the White House, is on record saying he would not push for a Constitutional Amendment overturning Roe v. Wade because “the Country’s not ready for it”.
That same leader refused to call for the criminal prohibition on Stem Cell Research, and rather instituted a policy of (for the first time) federal funding of such research in a way that is virtually guaranteed to ensure expanded federally-funded research (because he knowingly lied about the number of viable lines eligible for the federal funding).
That same leader took great pride in the fact that he reduced the time he took to review appeals for clemency in death-penalty cases from 30 minutes to 15 minutes (granted, nearly twice as long as it took him to respond to the information that the nation was under attack), and allowed that final, irrevocable penalty for more convicts than nearly anyone else. Can that really be considered the sound exercise of “prudential judgment”?
That same leader governed a state in which a disturbing number of Americans live in near-Third-World conditions.
How exactly is it better to support a Party that give lip-service to the abortion issue and is just plainly wrong on nearly every other life issue, than a Party that is on the right side of many Life issues, and at least honest about its position on abortion?

Steven D. Greydanus August 19, 2004 at 10:42 am

I’m no expert on Bush’s record, Esq., but I think there are some good answers to your question to be found in the list below, taken from a document found in Google cache.

  • President Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy his first week in office. The policy prevents federal tax dollars from being given to agencies that promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
  • President Bush stated he would veto the entire $8.2 billion State Department 2001 appropriations bill unless a provision to overturn the Mexico City Policy was removed. The House of Representatives then voted to strike the pro-abortion provision.
  • President Bush appointed pro-lifers to crucial positions in the executive branch.
  • President Bush declared that federal funds would not be used for stem-cell research that would require killing human embryos.
  • President Bush strongly backed a U.S. ban on the cloning of human embryos, and helped defeat a “clone and kill” counter proposal in the House of Representatives in 2001. The Bush Administration also has urged adoption of an international convention to ban all cloning of human embryos.
  • President Bush signed into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in August 2002, guaranteeing that every infant born alive enjoys full legal rights under federal law, even if the live birth occurred during an abortion.
  • President Bush strongly supported the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by the House of Representatives in July 2002.
  • President Bush helped win approval in the House of Representatives of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would recognize the unborn child as a victim of violent federal crimes.
  • President Bush has stopped many anti-life initiativesby threatening vetoes, such as proposals to allow federal employees’ health insurance plans to cover abortion, and to allow abortions to be performed within the federal prison system.
  • The Bush Administration, through the Justice Department, ruled that federally controlled substances could not be used to assist suicides. When a federal district judge overturned the decision, the Administration appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
  • The Bush Administration’s representatives to the United Nations and to U.N. meetings have fought repeated efforts to establish an international “right” to abortion. The representatives prevented adoption of language at the U.N. Special Session on Children in May 2002 that would have approved abortion for childrenaround the globe.
  • President Bush denied $34 million in U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) after concluding that it supports China’s coercive abortion policies in violation of the 1985 Kemp-Kasten anti-coercion law.
  • The Bush Administration set a policy allowing states to make unborn children and their mothers eligible for prenatal coverage under the federal-state health insurance program for poor children.
  • President Bush helped win approval in the House of Representatives of the Child Custody Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines for an abortion, if this abridges the right of her parents to be notified under their home-state law.
  • The Bush Administration strongly endorsed the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act passed in the House in September 2002 that permits hospitals and insurance companies to refuse to perform or pay for abortions without losing their Medicare eligibility or other federalfunding.
  • President Bush signed into law the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act, which supports adoption and post-adoptive services to place children with loving families.

If Kerry wins, I bet in four years one would be able to draw up a countervailing list of defeats for the pro-life cause and victories for the pro-choice cause.
Incidentally, here is another interesting list, this time taken from a hostile source, http://www.democrats.com.

  1. Because George W. Bush says he is “pro-life,” which means he regards abortion as murder….
  2. Because George W. Bush supports a “Human Life Amendment” to the Constitution, which would overturn Roe v. Wade….
  3. Because George W. Bush points to the two most anti-abortion Justices of the Supreme Court – Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia – as his models for Supreme Court appointees. And he may get to appoint a Supreme Court Justice soon.
  4. Because George W. Bush has a solid record of opposing abortion as Governor of Texas, where he signed 18 anti-abortion laws, and President [sic][sic – first ‘sic’ in original! – SDG].

Anonymous August 19, 2004 at 12:44 pm

I agree whole heartedly, Steven. When I lived in Nebraska, I easily found and voted for pro-life democrats. Since I have moved to California, I have not found a pro-life democrat.

Ben August 19, 2004 at 12:47 pm

I agree whole heartedly, Steven. When I lived in Nebraska, I easily found and voted for pro-life democrats. Since I have moved to California, I have not found a pro-life democrat.

Billy August 19, 2004 at 12:53 pm

Esquire, you forgot to mention that George W. Bush eats babies.

me August 19, 2004 at 1:00 pm

Thank you Thank you! I am a registered Democrat who has been pushed out of my own party because of the party’s stances on abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research. I vote Republican merely because there is not a Democrat on the ticket who will support a pro life stance on these issues. As far as the Republicans not doing anything about these issues but lip service, at least I know they are not going to come up with laws to make anything even worse like the Democrats have. I used to agree with the line “at least the Democrats act on other issues” and voted for Clinton, but when partial birth abortion was okayed as well as some very liberal judges appointed by him who have tried to legislate for the country, I can no longer ignore the abortion issue. The fact is that the Democrats may talk social security and welfare, but they act on making sure abortion is the norm for America. And the actions speak louder than the words.

esquire August 19, 2004 at 1:42 pm

It has not been the policy of the United States Government to fund overseas abortions for some time.
What Bush did was take away funding from any overseas health agency, even though that funding could expressly NOT be used for abortions, if that agencies happened to permit or counsel about abortions.
That means reduced health and healthcare for poor women overseas. Quite pro-life.

Steven D. Greydanus August 19, 2004 at 2:01 pm

: It has not been the policy of the United States
: Government to fund overseas abortions for some
: time.
In the first place, Esq., this sounds naive to me. What is policy and what happens aren’t always the same thing.
Secondly, and more importantly, it is quite possible to support the health and healthcare of poor women overseas without giving money to agencies that support baby killing.
If the UNHCR distributes abortion kits, and you say “Here’s some money, but you can’t use it to buy and distribute abortion kits,” well, fine, it will go toward their bottom line in some other way, but at the end of the day they’ll still have more money for abortion kits and more resources to get to people they want to give them to.
Thirdly, what about all the other points mentioned above? Does your reply on this one point construe tacit acknowledgement on the other points? Do you deny that Kerry as a pro-choice president would have a very different effect on appointments, policy, and abortion-related sub-issues than would President Bush?

Walker August 20, 2004 at 2:20 am

Among the sanest observations I’ve read this election year: “I find it necessary to give black-and-white issues like abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage priority over other issues about which men of good will, including Catholics, may in good faith legitimately dispute.”
Thanks for that, Jimmy.
We must not demonize our opponents…Unless of course they are…you know…demons.
:-)

Billy August 20, 2004 at 8:52 am

That wasn’t Jimmy who posted…it was Stephen.

Circuit Rider, grid epsilon August 20, 2004 at 9:29 am

“pro-life” democrats typically become pro-abort activists once they move to Washington City.
Esquire, the commandment against bearing false witness is still in the 10 commandments. I thought you ought to know.

Plausibly a Ruse December 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

“that there would be no ban on pro-life speakers at the convention”
There has never been a ban on pro-life speakers at any Democratic convention. This was not therefore a new policy. In addition from the perspective of these pro-lifers, it was an issue on which the speaker was pro-life. What is evaluated as pro-life is relative to ones world-view. Even President Bush’s embryonic research decision was hailed as “Solomon” like by the likes of Pat Robertson and thus as “pro-life”, yet decried as anti-life by U.S. Bishops.
There is a popular falsehood that a certain Casey was once prohibited from speaking at a Democratic convention due to his pro-life views. That is not the truth. As reported by Chris Matthews and confirmed by Howard Dean, that individual would have been able to speak but he refused to commit to endorsing the Democratic nomineee … this may have been related to his pro-life views insofar as his pro-life views prevented him from making that committment out of fear that the nominee might be pro-choice and a Republican or other alternative, pro-life, but a party can hardly be expected to honor as a speaker someone who refuses to commit to endorsing the nominee. Note that Republican Huckabee despite being pro-life committed himself during the primary after some prodding to supporting the Republican nominee even if it should be Guiliani, though he would always say he didn’t think it would be.
Christ Matthews is whether he be a fervent Catholic, a devout Catholic, and apparently considering a run for political office. May he and other Democrats who speak the truth about abortion and the beautiful choice that is life remain in our prayers. He is unabashed in proclaiming his Catholicism in the media (on MSNBC), by for example, acknowledging himself to be a “Thomist” in his world view. We can expect that he will be one to not exclude truth as it relates to statecraft, from the public square.

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