The Democratic Party’s platform, leadership, and delegates stand far to the left of its rank-and-file members, according to a new paper released by Democrats for Life of America. This disparity, manifesting itself in the party’s 2008 platform and in polls and interviews with delegates, could harm the party electorally.
“The Case for Pro-Life Democrats,” a 13-page document released this week by Democrats for Life uses demographic and polling information to argue that Democrats will gain politically from more openness to pro-life politicians and policies.
Strong majorities of Americans, according to a 2007 Zogby poll, supported requiring minors seeking abortions to get their parents consent (69 percent), laws requiring informed consent before mothers can procure an abortion (64%), and outlawing partial-birth abortion (67%). A Gallup poll in 2007 also found 72 percent opposing third-trimester abortions.
In contrast to this public sentiment, the Democratic platform approved this week states: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” Roe protects, as a constitutional right, abortion up until the moment of delivery, and parental consent, parental notification, and informed consent, are presumably “efforts to weaken and undermine” “a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.”
A July 2004 New York Times/CBS Poll found that 75 percent of delegates agreed with the statement that “Abortion should be generally available to those who want it rather than under stricter limits or not permitted.” When that statement was put before a broader swath of registered Democrats, only 48 percent agreed.
While there has been no similar survey of delegates this year, Catholic News Agency interviewed delegates at the Pepsi Center this week, and found near uniform support for legal abortion. Two of the approximately thirty delegates interviewed considered themselves pro-life. Pro-life and pro-choice delegates alike said they considered abortion a minor issue.
The Democrats for Life study also considered the future of the party by looking at the growing numbers of Hispanic Democrats who, by four-to-one margins, oppose abortion and think it should be illegal always “or only be legal when the life of the mother is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.” Also, 64 percent of Hispanics said abortion was a very important issue.
A closer look at the Democratic tidal-wave victory in 2006 suggests that nominating pro-life candidates is a winning issue. EMILY’s list, a political action committee that backs only pro-choice women, supported 25 non-incumbents in that election year, and five won. Meanwhile, all three of the Democratic candidates funded by DFLA PAC won.
While DFLA only examined Democratic candidates, Republicans also saw superior performance by pro-life candidates. All five Republican congressional candidates lost who received money from Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America. Of the 19 Republicans running for reelection who voted to allow abortions in U.S. military hospitals, only 12 won—giving them a 63% winning percentage, compared to more pro-life Republicans who won at a 93% rate.
But pro-life efforts to amend the platform this year fell short. Pro-life delegates to the committee failed even to insert language about seeking “abortion reduction” policies that did not place restrictions on abortion. The pro-life forces were able insert this language:
“We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
“The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal healthcare, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.”