Is There Room for Pro-Lifers In the Democratic Party?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) ­– Buttons were available at the Democrats for Life of America forum during the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

“Do We Count?” the button asks. The forum was an effort by pro-life Democrats to examine the question: “Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party?”

The answer to both questions was mixed.

The view of many of the presenters was that there is significant room to make a dent in the Democratic Party’s staunch position in favor of keeping abortion legal. That is in spite of Democrats for Life’s recent failure to get the party to change its unequivocal support for abortion on demand in the 2012 platform.

Democrats for Life members said they also believe that much of what does get done on the abortion issue happens not because of pro-abortion rights Democrats or pro-life Republicans. Pro-life Democrats in Congress, they say, have been the key leaders.

Kathy Dahlkemper, a former member of the U.S. House from Pennsylvania, put it bluntly: Both Republicans and some of the more active pro-life groups are afraid of pro-life Democrats.

Dahlkemper said she lost her seat to a pro-life Republican. But she also said the Democratic Party and its major fundraisers on the abortion issue do not fully support pro-life Democrats. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America also make sure that pro-life Democrats face opposition in primary races, she said.

Leaders of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party for years, and at the Democratic National Convention, they were scheduled for prime speaking slots.

During the forum, Democrats for Life members said the lack of support for pro-life Democrats by the national party has caused their numbers in Congress to dwindle, as they have been edged out by pro-life Republicans or pro-abortion rights Democrats. There were 125 pro-life Democrats in Congress in 1978 but only 17 today, they said.

But, Democrats for Life speakers also noted, the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House in the early 2000s and yet did not propose any legislation to end abortion.