Democrats & Liberals Archives

Democratic Party Chooses to Back Pro Life Candidates, Stirring Controversy

Earlier this week, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Representative Ben Ray Luján sent shockwaves as he announced that the DCCC would not withhold financial support from candidates who operate under a pro-lifee platform.

"There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates," he said in an interview with The Hill. "As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America."

The pro-life agenda has drawn criticism perhaps most harshly from leftists, many of whom argue that the ideology--which has a significant conservative Christian following--seeks to only "protect lives of the unborn." They also argue that it fails to grapple with the complexities of military service, generally opposes allowing refugees into the country, and does not approve of social safety nets for the underprivileged.

"To anyone looking in from the outside, the movement seems to be more about making public declarations of pious conservatism than advocating for life," Alan Levinovitz writes for Slate. "It is, at heart, a religious movement, which explains the absence of contraception and sex education from the platform. It is also a politically conservative movement, which values small government more than the souls of unborn children and seeks to do little for them once they are born."

For women especially, the DCCC's choice to back pro-life candidates is somewhat concerning, proving that the party is unwilling to fully embrace reproductive rights as a key liberal value.

"It's short-sighted and dangerous to pave the path to victory in 2018 at the expense of women," said Destiny Lopez, co-director at All* Above All Action Fund, in a press release earlier this week. "Let's not forget that the widely-lauded Democratic platform in 2016 clearly opposed not just restrictions on legal abortion--it also opposed the Hyde Amendment, which bans abortion coverage."

Briana Wu, a 2018 candidate for US House of Representatives in MA took to twitter, stating, "Liberal men that think women should compromise on abortion: Can you name a civil right of yours you'd be willing to put on the bargaining table?" She later followed up saying, "If the Democratic Party doesn't stand with women, count me out. You don't deserve our money or our support."

Abortion has always been a difficult issue for Democratic candidates, argues Becca Andrews of Mother Jones. In fact, Hillary Clinton made history last year when she openly supported the defense of Roe v Wade on stage. Most Democrats have been reluctant to express their support for abortion rights, or have felt exiled for their anti-abortion sentiments in an otherwise progressive platform.

Bernie Sanders, who has been a vocal advocate for women's reproductive rights argues that Democrats have to be willing to meet people in the middle, stating, "We have got to appreciate where people come from and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda," Sanders told NPR earlier this year. "But I think you just can't exclude people who disagree with us on one issue."

It's an issue that is likely to resurface as candidates gear up for midterm elections. As the Democratic party searches for a cohesive identity, it is unlikely that this will be the last time the party wrestles with issues related to reproductive health.

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