PHILADELPHIA (BP) – Despite the Democratic Party's adoption July 25 of a platform calling for the first time ever for direct taxpayer funding of abortion a pro-life group within in the party is laboring at the Democratic National Convention to shift Democrats' stance on sanctity of life issues.
In related news Russell Moore president of Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote in a USA Today op-ed coauthored with a former aide to President Obama that the Democratic platform's unprecedented pro-choice stance is "a foreboding sign for American civic life."
With delegates gathered in Philadelphia amid tension between supporters of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her chief rival Bernie Sanders over leaked emails showing DNC staff attempted to undermine Sanders' campaign a group called Democrats for Life of America wants to focus convention-goers on abortion-related issues. This week the group is manning an exhibit and hosting a reception honoring John Bel Edwards Louisiana's pro-life Democratic governor.
Kristen Day executive director of Democrats for Life said pro-abortion stances and rhetoric are "hurting the party."
"If we unite we can take the party back" Day said. "We can reduce support for abortion. We can support pregnant women. We really need those (pro-life) Democrats to start coming out and having their voices heard and stop hiding."
Democrats for Life also is sponsoring a billboard along Interstate 95 near the convention site that reads "One in three Democrats is pro-life. Open the big tent."
Based on the party platform however the tent appears decidedly small when it comes to social issues. Among its planks the platform:
– calls for appointing judges who "will protect a woman's right to safe and legal abortion."
– proposes overturning the Hyde Amendment federal legislation that has prohibited federal funds from being used to directly pay for abortions since 1977.
– supports repeal of the "global gag rule" – which prevents non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding from promoting elective abortion in foreign countries – and the Helms Amendment – which stipulates that foreign assistance funds may not be used to perform or promote elective abortion.
– Opposes efforts to withdraw federal funding from Planned Parenthood America's largest abortion provider.
Day noted that Cecile Richards president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America was seated next to potential first gentleman and former President Bill Clinton Monday night. Abortion activists like Richards have used their considerable influence to convince party leaders of the erroneous notion that being pro-choice earns votes Day said.
Richards "has quite a lot of influence and she's killing the party" Day said. "Her mission" of promoting abortion on demand "is hurting the party. It might take some more devastating loses for us to realize it."
In a July 26 Los Angeles Times op-ed coauthored with Fordham University ethics professor Charles Camosy Day argued that "radical support for abortion rights has been proven to drive away voters" in presidential swing states like Pennsylvania Ohio and Florida. Abortion advocacy she said is a major reason Democrats have lost control in 66 of 99 state legislative chambers including all legislative bodies in the South.
According to a survey this month by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion 51 percent of Americans self-identify as pro-choice but a full 78 percent "support substantial restrictions on abortion and would limit it to at most the first three months of pregnancy" LifeNews.com reported. Sixty-two percent of Americans and 44 percent of Democrats oppose using taxpayer funding for abortions.
By Day's count 60 percent more Democrats are pro-life than voted for Sanders in all of the nation's presidential primaries combined.
"There's a lot of frustration among Democrats" regarding "how far the party has taken this issue" Day said of abortion rights. "I did not expect people embracing and welcoming (Democrats for Life) this much" at the DNC "given the way the platform went."
Moore's July 24 USA Today op-ed argued that repealing the Hyde Amendment isn't "good for Democrats or for Democracy."
"For the past 25 years" Moore and coauthor Michael Wear wrote "the Democratic Party at least rhetorically acknowledged that compelling taxpayers to fund abortions was a step too far in the culture wars. If the call to repeal the Hyde Amendment remains in the Democratic platform that era is officially over. A party that calls for government funding of abortion does not merely disagree with pro-life Americans but wants to implicate them through their government of supporting what they believe is a moral evil."
Among its non-abortion-related planks the Democratic platform:
– applauds "last year's decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people – like other Americans – have the right to marry the person they love."
– vows to "oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces." It adds "We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate."
– states that Democrats "are horrified by ISIS' genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East." The platform vows to "do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom of religion."
– supports "removing the Confederate battle flag from public properties recognizing that it is a symbol of our nation's racist past that has no place in our present or our future. We will push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country."
Washington post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel explained that "candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials."