W. James Antle III writes about the disappearing pro-life Democrat, beginning with some history: “Abortion has long divided the country, but it did not always divide the two major parties.” George McGovern opposed inserting pro-abortion language into the 1972 Democrat platform and Jimmy Carter opposed taxpayer funding of abortion in 1980. (Carter would later leave the Southern Baptists over the congregation’s opposition to abortion.) In the 1980s, one-quarter to one-third of the Democrat Congressional delegation was pro-life. But that was then. Jesse Jackson and Al Gore were both pro-life but shed their politically inconvenient principles when they ran for their party’s presidential nomination because opposition to abortion was considered a political liability in the party’s liberal primaries. It is hard to think of a single prominent pro-life Democrat that has sought the party’s presidential nomination or rose to a position with the Congressional leadership over the past 25 years. Attle asks, are there any pro-life Democrats left? Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) seemed like one, but pro-lifers are legitimately questioning his bona fides after a deal with the White House over abortion funding that few honest observers think will effectively ban taxpayer dollars covering abortions. Attle notes that “President Obama’s executive order essentially reiterates the abortion language Stupak and his allies had long found unacceptable…”
Beyond the health care debate, here is the recent history of pro-life Democrats, Stupak et al:
Bloggers have been circulating footage of an old town hall meeting in which Stupak seemed prepared to capitulate on abortion funding a year ago. But given the recent history of many pro-life Democrats in Congress, one did not necessarily need YouTube to read the handwriting on the wall: almost as soon as the party leadership found it politically expedient to reach out to both sides of the abortion issue, Democratic pro-lifers began to marginalize themselves.
First, consider the voting records of many erstwhile pro-life Democratic stalwarts. One pivotal member of the “Stupak Dozen,” liberal pro-life Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), voted with the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) 100 percent of the time as recently as 2005-06. In the following Congress, Kildee voted with NRLC just 28 percent of the time. Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY), who declined to run for re-election in 2008, was another pro-life liberal. He agreed with NRLC 78 percent of the time in 2005-06 but did not cast a single pro-life vote in the following Congress.
Some cases are even more jarring. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) took a lot of heat for his pro-life stand when he ran to fill the late Rep. Joe Moakley’s House seat in 2001. But between 2006 and 2007, Lynch’s NARAL Pro-Choice America score zoomed from zero all the way up to 100 percent. His NRLC score plummeted from a high of 64 percent in 2003-04 to zero in 2007-08. Prior to his dissent on Obamacare, Lynch’s only pro-life vote in the current Congress was in favor of the Stupak Amendment.
We’ll leave the political implications of this for another discussion, but the glaring point of all this is that pro-lifers generally cannot trust politicians, but especially not Democrats.