Pro-life Democrats at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

This weekend at the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University, Millennial editor Robert Christian and I represented Democrats for Life of America and presented on the pro-life movement within the Democratic Party.  It may have largely been due to the plain curiosity that such a movement actually exists (“Isn’t Pro-life Democrat something of an oxymoron?”) or perhaps there was genuine interest in what such a movement could do for the pro-life cause and the future of the Democratic Party.  Either way, we gave two presentations to full, engaged classrooms.

The fact is 21 million Democrats identify as pro-life, which amounts to one third of the Democratic Party.  While pro-life Democrats make up a significant bloc in the party, their numbers are clearly not reflected in the national platform.  The Democratic Party’s platform opposes any effort to undermine or weaken a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion regardless of her ability to pay.  Yet various polls have shown that a majority of Democrats favor reducing the abortion rate, parental consent laws, 24-hour waiting periods, informed consent laws, and a ban on partial-birth abortions.

Historically, the Democratic Party has met what Hubert Humphrey referred to as the “moral test of government.”   As a party, through a number of landmark policy initiatives, Democrats have ensured the protection of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens: the poor, the sick, the disabled, children and the elderly.  However, particularly since the 1980s, Democrats have neglected to extend such protections to arguably the most vulnerable, the unborn.  Not only has the party chosen to not include protection of the unborn in its platform, it has also failed to remain inclusive to Democrats who do not share the party elite’s position on abortion, causing many Democrats to leave the party.

Not only has their own party ostracized them, pro-life Democrats seeking elected office have not been embraced by the pro-life movement in the United States. Rather than endorsing pro-life Democrats, pro-life groups, in order to promote other aspects of the Republican agenda, have instead consistently chosen to back Republicans with their endorsements and their sizeable financial contributions.

This weekend, at the conference, Robert and I sought to emphasize the importance of a bipartisan effort in the pro-life movement.  Such an effort would demand that pro-life groups who identify themselves as non-partisan and claim the protection of the unborn as their sole purpose refrain from pursuing other political agendas.  A bipartisan effort would have both moral and pragmatic implications.  It would revolve around the strategy of seeking to restrict access to abortion, while simultaneously working to provide pregnant women with the necessary support they need to carry their children to term.  And the assistance would not end at birth.  Furthermore, we argued that it is necessary to address the circumstances that cause many women to have abortions.  Eradicating poverty and increasing access to quality, affordable healthcare, good education, and safe and clean living environments are not only morally demanded policies for those who believe in the dignity and worth of the human person, but they will also bring about a reduction in unplanned pregnancies and reduce the likelihood that women will feel as though they have no other choice but to have an abortion.

Once again, it was very encouraging to see that the audience at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life was engaged and interested in the case that we were trying to make.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, particularly on the point that being pro-life needs to mean more than simply supporting restrictions on access to abortion.   And most seemed to agree that a strong pro-life bloc within the Democratic Party coupled with a strong bipartisan effort in the pro-life movement is the only way to effectively save the lives of the unborn and improve the lives of women and their families.