On the Hill Reproductive Choice

Anti-Abortion Democrats Press Democratic National Committee to Change Party Platform

Over 100 anti-abortion Democrats have signed a  letter calling for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to adopt a party platform less supportive of abortion. The letter was written by Democrats for Life, an organization of pro-life Democrats. It was signed by a number of prominent Christian pastors, anti-abortion organizers, and professors of religion.

The letter calls for the DNC to repeal its support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from being used for abortion. In the letter, the group urges the DNC to “reject a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party” and to “recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth.”

The DNC included in its platform the goal of repealing the Hyde Amendment for the first time in 2016. This decision was seen as a further step toward making the party pro-abortion, a topic which has furthered the divide between the two parties as Democrats begin to support more pro-abortion policies and Republicans increasingly enact anti-abortion measures. This divide, however, did not always exist. In the early 2000s, over 40 members of Congress were included in Democrats for Life’s coalition. Now, there are no more than two Democratic Senators who vote against pro-abortion bills.

Some prominent Democrats have attempted to toe the line between supporting abortion and ensuring anti-abortion Democrats, a group that is viewed as influential in deciding the outcome of Midwestern elections, feel included in the party. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi replied “of course” when asked if it was possible to be both pro-life and a Democrat. However, others in the party argue that support for anti-abortion policies can no longer be tolerated by those who identify themselves as Democrats. The Chair of the DNC, Tom Perez, has stated that “every Democrat … should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a Christian who for decades maintained a moderate stance on abortion. Less than 30 years ago, Biden defended his support of the Hyde Amendment by stating that “those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them.” However, facing pressure during the Democratic primaries, Biden reversed his position and announced his support for the abolition of the Hyde Amendment. “Just as I’ve never attempted to impose my views on anyone else as to when life beings, I have never attempted to impose my view on who should pay for it,” stated Biden. Biden has additionally supported the codification of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The Executive Director of Democrats for Life, Kristen Day, stated that the DNC’s decision to support pro-abortion policies would “massively damage relationships with religious voters.” She warned that the voting decisions of pro-life Democrats “shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

Sources: ABC News 7/24/20; Christian Science Monitor 2/4/20; the Atlantic 4/27/17; National Affairs Winter 2020; Associated Press 9/17/19