To say that the contemporary Democratic Party is no longer the party of its founders is an understatement. In fact, Democrats now scorn the founders of the party, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, since both owned slaves. But the modern Democratic Party is also no longer the party of Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Russell and Sam Nunn. The Democrats have lost their mooring and are now the party of what used to be called “the lunatic fringe.” The modern Democrats have adopted radical positions on the environment, race, gender, economics, foreign policy, and border security, but no issue illustrates the radical change more than abortion.

Ancient Romans got rid of unwanted children by having a slave take the unwanted child to a certain part of the city and leave it there to die of exposure. They justified the practice by arguing that the new-born was not fully human. With the Christian era came the understanding that human life was sacred and was not to be destroyed for the convenience of the parents or the state. For two millennia abortion has been condemned by Western culture as both liberal and conservative Christian thinkers agreed that abortion was wrong. In America, all the states had enacted laws restricting abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. That Supreme Court decision in 1973 overturned the existing state laws and made abortion legal for the first time. The justices based their decision on a woman’s “right of privacy,” a right that is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. The Court arbitrarily divided pregnancy into three-month segments. During the first trimester abortion was unrestricted, during the second trimester it could be limited, and the during the last trimester it could be banned. Liberals in general and feminists in particular rejoiced that women would no longer have to get abortions in “back alley” facilities.

While pleased with the Roe v. Wade decision, liberals in the 1970s still regarded abortion as a the least desirable form of birth control. Even pro-choice Democrats of this era insisted that abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare.” By the 1970s and 1980s, cheap condoms and the Pill had made unwanted pregnancies easy to avoid. Nevertheless, more than 60 million women have gotten legal abortions since 1973. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the peak year for abortions was 1990, when 1,608,600 were performed. Since then, the number of abortions gradually has declined, dropping below one million for the first time in 2013.

But even as the number of abortions has declined and public support for abortion has waned, today’s Democrats now demand that all restrictions on reproductive freedom be removed. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and other Democratic candidates for president insist that women should have the right to an abortion up to the moment of birth. States led by Democrats have passed laws guaranteeing that right. The governor of Virginia even supported infanticide. He explained that if an abortion was botched and the child was born, then the mother, in consultation with her doctor, would decide whether to keep the baby or kill it.

In less than 50 years, Democrats have moved from a policy of abortion being “legal, safe, and rare” to a policy of unrestricted abortion. To justify that policy they have to argue that the fetus is not fully human, otherwise abortion would be murder. Thus the fetus is considered a collection of cells, a glob — something that is not fully human, like the Romans viewed their unwanted children.

Mother Teresa, who was generally regarded as the most admired woman in the world, had a different view. When she visited the United States in 1986, a reporter asked her if she was optimistic about Western society. The diminutive nun responded, “No, I am not optimistic because the top priority of western women is the right to kill their own babies.”

James Cook is professor emeritus at Georgia Highlands College.