“Registering for a political party does not mean signing one’s conscience over to “every jot and tittle of the party platform,” he told the audience.
“You’re willing to hold in the tension of contributing to something you don’t always agree with all the time… but our civic life is not just about our personal preferences. It’s about the common good, about how we live together,” said Wear. “Political parties are a very important way of how to do that.”
Wear saw the Democratic Party of 2006 and 2008 as better for pro-life advocates than the current situation. In his view, the pro-life movement is a “helpful, sort-of-nagging element” that pushes Democrats to “stand up for life.”
He believed President Barack Obama cautioned his party against alienating others, including on the issue of abortion. Obama’s controversial visit to the University of Notre Dame had positive elements for Wear. The Democratic Party platform at the time had language about reducing abortion, language which “ended up pleasing nobody,” the president decided to keep this language in his speech.
The conference drew some opposition from Colorado Democrats and Democrat-leaning groups.
Progress Now Colorado, which previously attracted attention for misleading ads against pro-life pregnancy centers in the state, ran internet ads critical of the conference. In a parking lot outside the conference hotel, the group set up a billboard truck which said, “abortion access is a progressive value.”
On the morning of July 21, several critics gathered outside the hotel for a small press conference: Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Colorado; Sam DeWitt, access campaign manager for Compassion and Choices Colorado; and Democratic state legislators Sen. Rhonda Fields and Reps. Leslie Herod and Jovan Melton.
Herod objected to the effort to make space for Democrats who are opposed to abortion.
“Democratic values are not up for debate… the national and Colorado Democratic platforms are clear. Upholding the legal right for anyone to access a safe and legal abortion is essential and non-negotiable,” she said.
Herod characterized abortion as fundamental “to achieving the kind of gender, race and economic equality that we as Democrats have been fighting for, for decades.”
“Let me be clear: a Democrat is someone who stands for equality, stands for choice, stands for racial justice. If you don’t stand for those things then you are not a Democrat,” she said.
(Story continues below)
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Middleton, herself a former Democratic state legislator, said Colorado was “a solidly pro-choice state” and contended that those gathered for the conference were not in fact Democrats, but present “under a ruse.”
“This notion, a false narrative of a false move into the party really needs to be pushed back,” she said. “We’re here to say, ‘No, we don’t believe you, you are not welcome here, we want to see you really let us move forward together, unifying access to abortion care for all.'”
Over a dozen pro-life Democrats and their allies held a brief counter-demonstration. Playing up the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s opposition to unionization of its workers, they held signs such as “Pro-Labor, Pro-Life.”
Just minutes later, the conference hosted speaker Justin Giboney, an attorney and political strategist from Atlanta who was elected as a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions.
“A lot of Democrats disagree with the party on abortion but stay silent. We’ve got to speak up,” he said. “Without the assumption of ill intentions on the part of pro-lifers, people would have to acknowledge that there is another life at stake in these debates.”
He said he appreciates the Democratic Party’s “commitment to serving the least of these” and its recognition that government “has a role to play in improving people’s lives.