Democratic abortion platform wins points from some pro-lifers
DALLAS – The Democratic Party remains staunchly behind a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
But the platform statement on the issue that will be adopted at the party’s presidential nominating convention in Denver later this month has been well received by some pro-life Christians, who applaud its emphasis on abortion reduction.
On a conference call Tuesday with journalists, several leading evangelical and Catholic activists welcomed the stress on abortion reduction as the “common ground” between those who support abortion rights and those who oppose them (camps which describe themselves as pro-choice and pro-life).
A draft of the platform circulating last week — which insiders say has had few changes — said “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court ruling granting women a constitutional right to abortion) and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.”
But it also recognized the role of health care, education and “caring adoption programs” in reducing “the need for abortions.”
The language seems to be more of a change of emphasis than a radical change from past positions.
But it does strike a chord with some centrist evangelicals and Catholics who feel the pro-life and Republican Party aim of overturning Roe V. Wade has been futile and has not reduced abortions or offered support to low income women who may choose to terminate their pregnancies for economic reasons.
Joel Hunter, a prominent evangelical mega-pastor from Florida who describes himself as a “completely pro-life” conservative Christian and registered Republican, hailed the shift in emphasis as “courageous and historic.”
Jim Wallis, a leading figure on the religious left, said he saw it as “sorely needed common ground.”
“We could truly make reducing the abortion rate in America a non-partisan issue and a bipartisan cause. It is a common-sense approach,” he said in an earlier statement.
Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, also welcomed the move.
Their positive reaction to the platform’s language points to a broader shift among U.S. evangelical and other Christian movements to a wider “agenda of life” that includes a helping hand to the poor.
Not everyone in the anti-abortion rights camp is happy with the language. For many conservative Christians abortion is the taking of an innocent life, period.
Tom McClusky, the vice-president of government affairs at the Family Research Council, a conservative lobby group with strong evangelical ties, told Reuters that he didn’t really see how the Democratic Party’s take on the question had changed.
Abortion remains one of the most divisive and emotive issues in U.S. politics and it is a divide that has tended to follow partisan fault lines.
How the Democratic shift will affect the presidential election is difficult to judge. Will it give Obama a gap to poach some support from evangelical Republicans who are lukewarm on McCain? Or will it harden the resolve of abortion rights opponents?
Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Pro-life signs outside U.S. Supreme Court after anti-abortion protest Jan. 22)