“Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion.” — Senator Bob Casey at Democratic National Convention
This was supposed to be the year. After decades of demanding unalloyed fidelity to the absolute pro-choice position, 2008 was supposed to be the year a revitalized Democratic Party showed new-found tolerance for divergent views on abortion.
And it was supposed to begin at the Democratic National Convention. As an ABC News reporter predicted just before the convention, “The Democratic Party is planning a convention designed to soften the edges on the party’s support for abortion rights, with a revamped platform and a speaking lineup that reinforces efforts to broaden Democrats’ appeal on the hot-button issue.”
But it was not to be. In fact, far from softening their support for abortion or broadening their appeal on the issue, the Democratic convention served only to reinforce the party’s strong abortion uniformity.
First, Democratic leaders approved a platform that included perhaps its most pro-abortion language ever. The new platform excluded the previous goal of making abortion “rare” and omitted past language acknowledging that people of good conscience may differ on the issue.
Worse, the lineup of supposedly pro-life speakers fell silent when they got the chance to discuss abortion. In fact, aside from Sen. Casey’s “honest disagreement” comment, the right to life wasn’t talked about at all by any of the “pro-life” Democrats featured in prime time of the 4-day event. The reason is simple: there are no prominent pro-lifers in the Democratic Party.
Consider Casey, one of only a handful of national Democrats who calls himself “pro-life.” But, though he has had some pro-life votes, Casey received a 65 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2007, including twice voting to support use of taxpayer money to fund organizations that perform abortions overseas.
Consider also Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, whose speech on the final night of the convention emphasized his faith-informed political positions but didn’t touch on the right to life. Kaine is regularly referred to in the media as a “pro-life” Democrat. When Kaine ran for governor in 2005, CBS News said, “[Kaine’s] views on abortion are roughly in line with those of George W. Bush.”
But Kaine is effectively pro-choice. He opposed the partial birth abortion ban because it lacked an exception for not only the life but the health of the mother. The health exception is an abortion loophole that can and has been used to justify virtually any abortion, including late-term abortions.
Kaine also recently proclaimed his support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that enshrined abortion-on-demand. And in 2001 he told the Washington Post that he opposes efforts to require a parent’s consent before a minor gets an abortion. Tim Kaine may call himself pro-life, but his record and statements belie that label.
Sen. Harry Reid used to oppose abortion. And though he is still referred to in the media as “anti-abortion,” his record has become more nuanced since he became majority leader. In 2007, Reid received a 57 percent score from Planned Parenthood and a 100 percent rating from NARAL. And when the Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a press conference, “…this isn’t the only decision that a lot of us wish that [Justice Samuel] Alito (who voted to uphold the ban) weren’t there and [former Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor were there."
Then there’s Obama’s running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. Though no one would call Biden “pro-life,” he is considered by many to be an abortion “moderate.” Many commentators believe Biden, a Catholic, could help Obama win support among conservative Catholic voters in swing states. But although Biden has occasionally supported pro-life legislation, including a ban on partial-birth abortion, he has compiled a very pro-abortion rating lately. In 2007-2008, he received a zero rating from the National Right to life and 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.
In a November debate, Biden pledged to appoint only justices who would uphold Roe, and he has been a leader in obstructing confirmations of conservative justices. All of which explains why NARAL lauded the choice of Biden as Obama’s vice presidential nominee, stating, “Sen. Biden has consistently expressed support for a woman’s right to choose.”
There are other examples, but the point is clear: There simply are no prominent pro-lifers in the Democratic Party. Even the one Democratic senator who could credibly be called “pro-life,” Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, endorsed Obama early on in the campaign.
Nelson’s support, and that of all the aforementioned “pro-life” Democrats, including Casey, is hypocritical given Obama’s extreme abortion record. Obama has pledged that his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would overturn hundreds of federal and state laws, including bans on partial-birth abortion, parental notification laws and other measures that these “pro-life” legislators have supported.
“Unity” was a major theme at the Democratic National Convention. But the Democrats’ convention proved that on abortion, they will tolerate nothing less than uniformity.