This decision is unbelievably shortsighted.
Since the rise of the influence of the abortion lobby in the Democratic party there has been fewer and fewer pro-life Democrats in office, for a number of reasons and we need not detail them here. But the point is this. The pro-life Democrats in elected office and those Democrats with “mixed views” on abortion, like them or not, have played a very important legislative role.
The number of pro-choice Republicans in Congress is slightly less than pro-life Democrats. So without pro-life Democrats, none of the pro-life bills that made it through Congress during the Bush Administration would have passed without their votes. When appropriations bills are on the congressional floor, without pro-life Democrats, the Hyde Amendment would not get enough votes. Inevitably, without this bloc of votes very few pro-life bills (and many pro-choice bills) would pass. That is the current political reality.
No one is arguing that pro-life Democrats have a marginal influence, if any, in the Democratic Party. No one is arguing that the Democratic Party’s platform on abortion is going to change today or tomorrow.
For those that do not share my political views, the reality really is this: pro-life Democrats are a necessary evil to you regardless of whether you like it or not. The Hyde Amendment is not a law — obviously. The Hyde Amendment or “Hyde language” is offered in variously named amendments or “riders” that are routinely attached to annual appropriations bills since 1976. Such provisions prevent funds allocated by appropriation bills for the Department of Health and Human Services from funding abortion services.
The reality is there is, for example, no federal law that says the U.S. government cannot fund abortions. Rather budget-related bills have repeatedly adopted a pro-life amendment saying that none of the funds within that specific legislation can be used to fund abortions. Apparently no one in the pro-life movement with status or influence has ever thought to introduce legislation to make this a federal-wide law. The implications of this fact is that to circumvent federal funding of abortion, appropriation bills must have this pro-life rider attached to it. But this has only been the case because there has always been enough pro-life votes in Congress, Republican and Democrat, to ensure that Hyde language endures. To the present, we have always had a slim pro-life majority in Congress to ensure that this remains the case.
What will we do the day this is not the case and Congress fails to attach Hyde language to an appropriation bill? We have seen this once already — there were not enough votes to attach the Dornan amendment (an amendment with “Hyde language”) to an appropriations bill for the District of Columbia and now there is no legal prohibition against federal funding of abortion in our nation’s capitol. The so-called obvious answer to this problem is to un-elect those that would vote with us on this critical issue?
If the pro-life movement decides to explicitly (it’s sort of already the case) become an arm solely of the Republican Party and vote out all Democrats, pro-life or pro-choice, then the pro-life movement will have to reap the consequences of such a change in the political landscape.
Pro-life laws will have a hell of a time riding out the inevitable swings of political power from one party to the other. Therefore, the fate of the unborn will inevitably be contingent on the temporal success of a single faction. One party will make progress one way and see it all unraveled as the other inevitably comes back into power.
In my view, as a pro-life Democrat, we will be sitting around forever waiting on Republicans to appoint the right justices to the Supreme Court. I am surely not going to pretend that Democrats are going to be our saviors on this matter. But Republican presidents post-Roe have appointed 7 out of 9 justices. Do they need to replace a whole 9 to get a 5 to 4 ruling reversing Roe, or at least, major portions of Roe? Clearly on this front, the GOP on its own has some issues because a number of Republicans want to govern as if abortion is a non-issue.
I am deeply sympathetic to frustrations in the pro-life movement in regard to congressional figures who are both pro-life and a Democrat. But to say that there is no such thing, all of a sudden, as a pro-life Democrat is to create a very disastrous myth.
Back in November, the vote on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment revealed that there are 64 Democrats who — many not being perfectly pro-life — are more with us on the issue than Democratic leadership. Pro-life votes in a Democratic caucus is a thorn in the side for Democratic strategists. For what reason should the pro-life movement give up this stumbling block, even if it is not resolute and immovable, to delay, or even stop, the Democratic leadership’s abortion-on-demand agenda?
Robert George’s “American Principles Project” makes the point impeccably:
For the pro-life movement to give up its courting and support of pro-life Democrats is to fall into simple partisanship, and to ultimately give up any hope of upward mobility on the part of pro-life Democrats within their own party. And to abandon the possibility or pro-life Democrats is to permanently chain ourselves to one party, as opposed to reforming and converting both parties. A truly pro-life representative on either side of the aisle is an ally with us for the cause of protecting unborn human life, period.
A strategy, however, which seeks to actively reduce the number of pro-life Democrats smacks of using the life issue as a political pawn, or of using the ends to justify the means. For example, some say that we must have pro-life Republicans before the life issues will be addressed better in Congress, so the way to get there is to reduce the number of Democrats.
Such a political calculus does real harm in the short run (abandoning pro-life Democrats), for a potential good (more pro-life Republicans) that I would argue remains obscured by the vagaries of government (the GOP’s continued reluctance to completely embrace the life issue as a winning social issue suggests we have plenty of work to do within the GOP as well). The winning strategy would be instead to say that any pro-abortion candidate will lose pro-life support to a pro-life candidate, any day. That’s a messaging strategy that, if carried out consistently, candidates will heed.
It helps to think about the situation in reverse: pro-choice Republicans are a real impediment within the GOP to pro-life unity within the party. And yet you do not hear pro-abortion advocates saying that pro-abortion Republicans need to disappear or switch parties. Pro-aborts are, instead, perfectly happy to have pro-abort Republicans destroying the party unity on life issues within the GOP. In the same (but opposite) way, we pro-lifers should be overjoyed to see pro-life Democrats surviving in their party despite the anti-life ideology of their leadership. Supporting your issue on both sides of the aisle isn’t just principled, it’s smart.
…The unborn don’t care what letter is behind the name of their defenders, and neither should we.
In a recent post, I made the point that the pro-life movement has very non-traditional manifestations across the political spectrum that does the great service of challenging stereotypical presumptions. The life issues are not religious issues and one does not need to be a conservative Republican and not even a Christian to take a principled stand against abortion and other intrinsically evil attacks on human life. Indeed, the pro-life movement is and should be politically diverse.
But for the pro-life movement to adopt a policy such as the one taken by the Indiana Right to Life to endorse only candidates of a single party to the exclusion of even principled, qualified candidates of the other party would strike at the heart of unity in the pro-life movement when it could have been avoided. If official pro-life organizations choose only to endorse pro-life candidates who also happen to be conservative Republicans, it will only reinforce the false mentality that one must be a Republican to be pro-life and the pro-life movement will say with little credibility that it welcomes all despite their political views insofar as they support the sanctity of human life.