The Democrats have an image problem: Middle America doesn’t share their values. By values, we – and they – mostly mean their abortion position. This is nothing new. For years, the pro-abortion side has tried to rebrand itself: “We’re not pro-abortion. We’re pro-choice.” For most liberal pro-abortion Democrats who try to pass themselves off as moderate middle-of-the-roaders, it is the abortion issue that sinks them. Candidate Bill Clinton, in 1992, said he wanted an America where abortion was “safe, legal and rare.” Never mind that if abortion is a moral activity and is safe and legal, there is no valid reason for wanting it to be rare.

During last year’s presidential election campaign, Senator John Kerry brought back former New York governor Mario Cuomo’s old line: “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I can’t impose my morality on others.” Kerry went to ridiculous lengths to establish himself as middle-of-the-road on abortion, but a voting record that included at least five votes to keep partial-birth abortion legal made that claim difficult.

Following Democrat defeats at the presidential and congressional levels, mostly on moral issues, Frances Kissling, head of the pro-abortion Catholics for a Free Choice group, mused aloud that the Democrats might rethink their down-the-line support for abortion. She suggested the party soften its stance and, for example, support laws that recognize unborn victims of violence.

Now, we have Senator Hillary Clinton beginning her auditions for a 2008 presidential run, knowing she must reach out to average Americans. She dutifully resurrected her husband’s bogus line about abortion being safe, legal and rare. She also spoke to a pro-abortion rally in upstate New York and told them that they, pro-abortion Democrats, had to find common ground with opponents of abortion. She suggested aggressive sex education classes and expanded distribution of contraceptives to teens to reduce pregnancy and, therefore, abortion rates. Most people aren’t buying it. However, the New York Times did. It headlined its story on the senator’s speech: “Clinton seeking shared ground on abortion.”

To help address the problem of being out of touch with religious and values voters, other Democrats appeared to be moving to the political centre. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Harry Reid convinced former pro-life congressman Tim Roemer to run for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship.

So how serious are leading Democrats in actually finding some so-called middle ground? Are they seriously rethinking their staunch pro-abortion position? Or are they attempting to re-position themselves with some crafty re-branding?

Well, Roemer was criticized by Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Kim Gramby, who considered jumping into the race herself to highlight the abortion issue, the minute Roemer became a candidate. He eventually dropped out because of a lack of support. The DNC chair eventually went to a former Vermont governor, the staunchly pro-abortion Howard Dean. Vermont Right to Life told The Interim in 2004 that when Dean went to med school, he did extra rotations at a Burlington, Vt. Planned Parenthood facility. (For the record, he claims to never have committed an abortion.) He later sat on the facility’s board of directors. Now, however, Dean is borrowing the Clintons’ line: safe, legal and rare.

Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democratic Network, said, while recognizing the need for his party to “be open to people who are pro-life,” that, “All Democrats are united around the idea that we should make abortion safe, legal and rare.” But how does he propose the party be open to pro-lifers, when “all Democrats are united” in support of legal abortion?

The problem for too many Democrats is that they care less about being pro-life than about appearing pro-life. That is because they care more about votes than lives. Ironically, by putting the lives of the unborn ahead of their own partisan fortunes, they could siphon off many socially conservative, but economically liberal or anti-war, voters from the Republicans. But the change must be genuine; pro-life must be a deeply ingrained principle, not merely a political posture. In the immediate future, they could prove that they are reconsidering their party’s dogmatic support of abortion by not filibustering President George W. Bush’s pro-life judicial appointees.

In the longer term, our guess is that Hillary’s hand-wringing over abortion will gain the Democrats not single a vote, because her ploy is evident to even the most naive voter.

Anyone who understands that abortion is a moral wrong is not going to accept an abortion law that keeps it legal, no matter how rare.