Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez says all Democrats should support line up in favor of abortion and calls the position “not negotiable,” a clarification for which pro-life groups are exceedingly grateful.
The issue arose after Perez publicly backed the pro-life Democratic nominee in the race for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. After criticism from pro-choice forces, Perez released a statement insisting he and the party were not straying from their stance on abortion.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” stated Perez. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
“At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice,” added Perez.
Democrats supporting abortion is nothing new but even pro-life groups are a bit surprised that Perez would publicly such a blanket position for the party.
“I think it’s a clarifying statement but I think these are always good to really hammer home to the grassroots that there’s a huge disconnect here. There’s such an extreme disconnect about what Perez said and the way that rank and file Democrats act in their state legislatures and in the way that they vote,” said Susan B. Anthony List Communications Director Mallory Quigley.
But she appreciates Perez offering the real position of Democrats on abortion.
“He is the perfect chairman for a party whose platform says, ‘We support abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by tax dollars,'” said Quigley.
Quigley also says Democrats are stifling candidates at the state and local levels because of abortion.
“At the state level, there are still a decent number of pro-life Democrats but we see that they’re not moving up. There’s only less than a handful of pro-life Democrats in the House,” said Quigley.
She says the pro-life Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., are buckling under the pressure to conform.
“Joe Manchin, who for a long time now has been the only reliable pro-life vote in the Senate, took a picture with Planned Parenthood supporters and said that he’s all in for Planned Parenthood,” said Quigley.
Some Democrats tried to soften the party line, at least semantically.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., claimed the Democrats had room for pro-life lawmakers. But the number two Democrat in the upper chamber told CNN that room did not extend to actual policy.
“We need to be understanding of those who take a different position because of personal conscience, but as long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe v. Wade, back women’s rights as we’ved defined them under the law, then I think they can be part of the party,” said Durbin.
Quigley says that explanation and similar efforts by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are really no different than what Perez said.
“That’s not a pro-life position. It is not enough for the pro-life movement for you to say, ‘I personally wouldn’t have an abortion or encourage an abortion, but I’m not going to do a single thing to help a baby at 20 weeks or beyond, capable of living outside the womb, and I’m not going to protect that child from abortion.’ That is not a pro-life position,” said Quigley.
She adds that the mild rebukes from Pelosi and Durbin are most likely just for public relations.
“What seems to be a disagreement is actually just a show to try to continue to obfuscate their abortion extremism because some people, like Pelosi and Durbin, know that it sounds better to allude to some sort of right to conscience in the Democratic Party, which of course is non-existent,” said Quigley.
With Republicans in charge of Congress and in the White House, Quigley is hopeful that this will be the year to move federal dollars away from Planned Parenthood and into community health centers that provide health care to women without performing more than 300,000 abortions per year. She also wants to see passage of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after weeks of pregnancy.
She says the shifting of money away from Planned Parenthood should happen through reconciliation on the health care bill. However, with the 20-week ban needing 60 votes to advance in the Senate, Quigley suspects the GOP will need to pick up several seats in 2018 to push that bill over the finish line.