On marriage, Edwards in 2015 said that he personally opposed same-sex marriages but that marriage licenses from the state should not be denied same-sex couples, as the Supreme Court had ruled that it was the law of the land.
He issued an executive order in 2016--later overturned in the courts--that established employment protections for state and state contractor employees, on the basis of many categories including sexual orientation and gender identity. The order included a religious exemption for churches and religious organizations.
Despite Edwards' pro-life stance, questions remain of how a similar Democratic candidate might fare with leaders in the Democratic Party who may say there is no litmus test on abortion, but without the evidence to support such a claim.
At the national level, the Democratic Party has increasingly adopted an absolutist line on abortion in recent years to the alienation of millions of potential voters, say Day and Charlie Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University.
Edwards' victory could "jolt" Democratic Party leaders "out of what is just an untenable position" on abortion, Camosy told CNA, calling the current party platform "about as extreme as it could possibly get."
In 2016, the DNC platform called for the repeal of the Hyde and the Helms Amendments-policies barring taxpayer funding of abortions. President Obama's 2012 faith outreach campaign director Michael Wear even called the platform "extreme" on abortion.
In 2017, DNC chair Tom Perez stated that "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health." He subsequently met with Day after she requested a meeting on behalf of pro-life Democrats.
In the 2020 presidential election, Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment this summer after backlash against his decades-long support for the policy. Other candidates have called for taxpayer funding of elective abortions, federal statutory protections of abortion, or have even said that the mother should be able to choose abortion up until the birth of the child.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in September that "there's room in our party" for pro-life candidates. However, the party's most pro-life member in the House, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), has faced repeated primary challenges from an openly pro-abortion candidate and seen the chief of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) withdraw her participation in a fundraiser for him earlier this year after pressure from pro-abortion advocates.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) on Monday announced a litmus test on abortion for any party candidates running for a state attorney general office, saying that it "will only endorse candidates who support the right to access abortion."
"What is it saying about people like John Bel, and like me, and Senator Casey, and all the elected pro-life Democrats across the country, the Democratic voters who are pro-life?" Day asked. "If there's a litmus test, does it apply to us too? That they don't want our votes?"
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While, according to one study, nearly seven in ten of the party's voters identify as pro-choice, many voters might still be turned off by more extreme stances on abortion, Day and Camosy said.
Gallup in 2019 reported that 45% of Democrats say abortion should be legal "under certain" conditions, and 14% say it should be illegal in all conditions.
To what extent those "certain" conditions of legality amount to, however, is unclear. Gallup reported that 58% of Americans nationwide would oppose a "heartbeat" bill, such as the one Edwards signed into law.
In 2018, Gallup reported that while 60% of Americans supported legal abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, nearly two-thirds of Americans wanted abortion to be illegal "in the second three months of pregnancy"; that support rose to 81% for illegality in the final three months of pregnancy.
And in advance of the 2020 presidential election, pro-life Democrats in swing states-and even in some heavily-Democratic states-are reportedly disgusted by the party's extreme support for abortion.
"We have pro-life democrats in New York who are just so upset about the trajectory the party has taken," Day said. Earlier in 2019, the state's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that could allow for many late-term abortions even up until the birth of the child.