Whether there is a Democrat President or a Democrat-controlled Congress or a Democrat President AND a Democrat-controlled Congress (as was the case in 2008), there must be a strong movement of Democrats Against Abortion holding the line. Such a movement exists.
I received an email from Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life of America, describing the groundswell of support from Pro-Life voters in the Democrat Party since her dramatic showdown with Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. This should surprise no one. Despite the National Platform, Democrats have been the unsung leaders of the Pro-Life Movement’s key fights in the abortion wars since the beginning.
The first major states to liberalize abortion laws were California, Colorado and New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s under the governance of Republicans Ronald Reagan, John Love, Nelson Rockefeller. This was bolstered by the Nixon Administration’s Commission on Population Control, which explored legalizing abortion as a method of population control.
In this early debate, two of the loudest opponents of abortion rights proved to be Graciela Olivarez, a cofounder of the National Organization for Women and appointee to Nixon’s Population Commission, and Fannie Lou Hammer, Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Both women strongly, openly and fiercely criticized legalized abortion on demand and declared it genocide against the poor.
The Women’s Liberation Movement impatient, as they always have been, with American Democracy and Representative Government resorted, as they usually do, to legalizing abortion via Court orders suspending duly passed laws. While much attention has been focused on Norma McCorvey aka “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade, media attention has ignored that Henry Wade, the district attorney sued, was a Democrat with a Democrat Governor.
At the time the Democrat Party has no position on abortion, but that was not to be long coming. During the 1970s many prominent Democrats condemned abortion as murder and called for adopting a Constitutional Amendment against it, including Reverend Jesse Jackson. In 1976, the Women’s Liberation Movement having secured a Supreme Court ruling invalidating all abortion bans targeted the Democrat Party. In doing so they faced stiff opposition for a variety of reasons, but mainly because many of the candidates for the Democrat nomination were Pro-Life.
Governor George Wallace, yes that George Wallace, campaigned on favoring a constitutional amendment to make abortion illegal. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, declared abortion should be illegal except to save the life of the mother. 1972 Democrat Vice Presidential Nominee, Sergeant Shriver was an avowed abortion opponent and Senator Birch Bayh who was one of the leading allies of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Congress came under attack from the Pro-Life Movement forcing him out of the race.
While most of the 1976 Democrat Field was Pro-Life, an even stronger challenge came from Ellen McCormack, a New York Housewife who entered the race to hold the Democrat Party’s feet to the fire against abortion. With the support of the grassroots Pro-Life Movement, McCormack campaigned through multiple states, became the first woman running for President to qualify for Secret Service Protection and receive Federal Matching Funds that were used to finance a nationwide television ad campaign against abortion, appearing with Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the President of the National Right to Life Committee.
The pay off came when the Democrat National Committee, determined to win the election against the Republicans, settled on a compromise that kept the Party together while allowing freedom of conscience, limiting abortion rights to two sentences :
“We fully recognize the religious and ethical nature of the concerns which many Americans have on the subject of abortion. We feel, however, that it is undesirable to attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court decision in this area.”
This was the beginning, not the end, of the fight. As Democrat National Platforms became more radicalized every four years after, while maintaining the freedom of conscience compromise, Democrats against abortion appeared on the frontlines of a fight with the abortion industry that viewed their party as the battleground.
In 1983, Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) joined Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in pushing the Hatch-Eagleton Amendment to the Senate Floor with the language :
“A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution.”
The Amendment was defeated but the fight did not end. During the early 1990s, Democrat Governors Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joan Finney of Kansas were leading the charge against the abortion rights movement. Bob Casey was sued by Planned Parenthood, leading to the first major challenge to Roe v. Wade and resulting in the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey ruling that replaced trimesters with viability standard, allowing for abortion bans after viability to be established. Joan Finney, the Democrat treasurer found herself in the middle of Pro-Life trench warfare when she joined the protests during the 1991 Summer of Mercy in Wichita Kansas, to shut down every abortion clinic in the city.
Their efforts again paid off when Bill Clinton, the Democrat Nominee was forced to keep his coalition together by coining the phrase that abortion should “safe, legal and rare” and writing a series of platform promises to allegedly make that happen. Clinton’s intervention, however, proved a major setback for the Democrat Party, including denying Governor Bob Casey speaking time at the 1992 Convention and enacting multiple disastrous laws including making it a Federal Crime to engage in sit-ins at abortion clinic (despite this being a tactic of the Civil Rights Movement only twenty years before) and dismantling multiple welfare programs, resulting in public criticism from the National Right to Life Committee.
During the George W. Bush Administration, which to date remains the most Pro-Life Presidency in American History, Democrats proved to be the deciding factor in making this legacy possible. With the support of nearly fifty Democrat Congressman and a number of Senators, Congress passed The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003, The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, re-instating The Mexico City Policy, kept the Hyde Amendment in every single budget and provided the votes needed to confirm both Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
In 2008, Congressman Bart Stupak led a major group of Democrats to block Obamacare unless they received guarantees and Executive Order 13535 prohibiting the use of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 from being used to support abortion. The Affordable Care Act also included the creation of The Pregnant Women Support Act – establishing the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, proposed by Democrats for Life of America with the goal to “reduce the number of abortions by 95% in the next ten years.”
Today is no different. In 2019, Louisiana State Assemblywoman (now Senator) Katrina Jackson and Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Il) addressed the National March for Life. Later in 2019, Jackson authored and sponsored the Louisiana Heartbeat Abortion Bill that was signed into law by Louisiana Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards. Jackson is also defending before the Supreme Court another anti-abortion law requiring doctors and abortionists performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away.
In the 2020 Democrat Primaries, much of the focus has been on the radical extremism in the Democrat Presidential candidates. Much of the last year has seen locked ranks in support of abortion rights among Presidential Campaigns. Charles Camosy, a former board member of Democrats for Life of America resigned and changed his voter registration from Democrat to the newly formed American Solidarity Party. The biggest publicity came when sitcom star Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, Back to You, The Middle, Carol’s Second Act), an outspoken Pro-Lifer and former Democrat Party member, attempted to bash Democrats for Life of America on social media, Tweeting :
“I don’t understand why pro-life people want to know if they are “welcome” to join the democrat party. Why would any civilized person want to support a barbaric platform that champions abortion for any reason through all nine months funded by taxpayers?”
But Heaton ignored the fact that the Republican Party only supports the Right to Life because Pro-Lifers organized the Republican National Coalition for Life to protect the platform. After the Reagan years, the abortion rights movement made an attempt to take over the Republican Party, only to be battled by the Right to Life Movement. The RNC/Life:
“The Republican National Coalition for Life (RNC/Life) was founded by Phyllis Schlafly in the fall of 1990 after two groups, Republicans for Choice and National Republican Coalition for Choice, publicly announced their intention to provoke a floor fight at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston in order to remove the pro-life plank from the platform.
Throughout 1991 and 1992, the two pro-abortion-choice groups carried on a relentless attack against the official position of the Republican Party which states in part that, “The unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” Their campaign enjoyed massive coverage and support from the media and ample funding from the abortion industry and their friends in the Republican Party.
After securing 100,000 Pledges of Support for the platform plank from grassroots voters across America, and an impressive endorsement list of 3,500 Republican public and Party elected officials, RNC/Life led the successful effort by pro-life national Delegates to readopt the pro-life plank.”
For the Democrat Party to change “a barbaric platform that champions abortion for any reason through all nine months funded by taxpayers” requires a similar movement within the Democrat Party.
Last year I organized a series of Twitter Pickets calling for a Pro-Life Democrat to run for the Democrat Nomination, that gained some traction, inspiring the creation of the Pro-Life Democrat Presidential PAC by Jacob Lupfer and began contributing these articles to The Iowa Standard.
Kristen Day and Democrats for Life of America began pressuring Presidential campaigns directly and orchestrating protests at each Democrat debate, finally cornering Pete Buttigieg on international television followed by a media blitz about Pro-Life Democrats that shattered the myth abortion rights and the Democrat Party are one and the same. Former Vice-President Joe Biden received a rude awakening, after he turned his back on Pro-Life Democrats completely and announced he would repeal the Hyde Amendment, only to place fourth in the Iowa Caucus and fifth in the New Hampshire Primary.
The abortion rights movements firewall cracked completely when Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked by ABC’s The View, if Pro-Life Democrats have a place in her political coalition, immediately followed by Congresswoman Gabbard being asked the same question on Fox News Ingraham Angle and also announcing her opposition to an abortion litmus test.
In the post-2020 election scene, the abortion right warrior Presidential candidates and their supporters will be remembered the same way egotistical military commanders determined to make a names for themselves order suicide missions. Pro-Life Democrats have had enough, but their ability to assume control of the Party and oust the abortion rights movement will depend entirely on whether they receive the reinforcements they need now.
Momentum will continue to gain and Pro-Life Conviction will continue to penetrate the Democrat Party, provided it is given the same support and organization that Pro-Lifers in the Republican Party have benefited from for decades.