This article’s title will surprise many readers. It absolutely should not. A recent Gallup poll of Democratic Party members shows that fully one-third of rank and file Democrats identify as being “pro-life.”
A few weeks ago, former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaigned for the pro-life Democrat Heath Mello for Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.
In response, pro-choice groups criticized Senator Sanders for endorsing Mello. They argued that Mello was not a Democrat, because to them, one must be pro-choice to be a Democrat. Showing clearly that no such litmus test exists in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders stood by his endorsement and refused to back down.
Immediately, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., an ardent pro-choice Democrat and leading progressive, came to Bernie’s defense. “I am strongly pro-choice and I will fight for a woman’s right to choose. I recognize that not all of my colleagues agree with me. I'll do everything I can to persuade them to my side but, regardless, they are my colleagues … and will remain so … that's how it is with Democrats.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., perhaps the favorite “whipping girl” of the GOP, in a recent interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” when asked whether or not a Democrat could be pro-life, quickly responded “Of course.” She went on to say, “I have served many years in Congress with good Democrats who have not shared my … position [on this issue].”
Those who know the history of the Democratic Party know that pro-life Democrats have long played an important role in the party. Nothing has changed. Those of us who identify as pro-life are still comfortably at work within the party of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jack Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Come join us.
There is room for those alongside us who support people, who believe our party is open to people, who support full independence and equality for women, free from government intrusion in the control of their bodies, yet seek to establish a community where abortion is diminished as an option to women in crisis.
Early feminist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were staunch pro-lifers. Pro-life Democrats were a key demographic in establishing the Hyde Amendment in 1976, which keeps government funding from being used to support abortions, and worked hard to ensure such integrity was maintained in the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Pro-life Democrats are a majority-minority within the party as well, with many African-American and Latino Democrats identifying as pro-life.
The debate engendered by Sanders’ support of Mello, a pro-life Democrat, has given us the opportunity to speak up and let more people know that we are here and active in the political process, and that we are proud to be Democrats.
It is an obvious and indisputable fact that abortion is much higher among poor women, and therefore unfortunately among minorities, particularly African-Americans. The Democratic solution is to combat economic inequality to give these women a way out of poverty so that they can have the families most of them want to have one day anyway.
There is no doubt that the decision to choose abortion is often an economic one. The Guttmacher Institute provides research that shows 74 percent of women seek abortions because having a child would too severely strain their ability to work and because they cannot afford the medical debt.
Pro-life Democrats want to increase access to education so that women can obtain higher-paying jobs, to provide the health care necessary to bring those children into the world to care for them and support paid family leave so that women and families aren’t further buried in medical debt and lost wages, in short: being punished just for giving birth. The average natural birth costs $10,000 in a U.S. hospital while C-Sections and other complications can top $50,000. With the federal poverty level at $18,670 for a two-person household, this is a crushing debt for those families.
Pro-life liberals also support publicly-assisted day care for children living in poverty so that their mothers can work. The knowledge that affordable day care is unavailable is often one of the factors weighed by expectant mothers in deciding whether to carry a fetus to term. Why do Republicans give lip service to being pro-life and still oppose such programs?
The Republican Party argues that the only way to end abortion is to make it illegal. This would, in fact, only increase back-alley abortions. They also advocate keeping the minimum wage at $7.25 an hour while, in reality, such a wage cannot provide even the family’s necessities of life.
The GOP fights to make education more expensive by removing federal aid from public schools; they now want to take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans by repealing The ACA.
The GOP proposed Trumpcare would’ve allowed insurers to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions. The legislation considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition for women and for men, calling it “expectant child” in that case. This would raise premiums on expectant parents, resulting in the cancellation of coverage for those who cannot afford the payments.
Might this add to the financial stress that leads to thoughts of ending a pregnancy? Which party can really lay claim to respecting the sanctity of life? Who is really pro-life?
Benjamin Amis lives in Rome and volunteers as a local Democratic activist. He studied theology at Asbury University and accounting at GNTC.