Politics & Policy

Can Democrats Be Pro-Life?

Hillary Clinton speaks at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event, January 2016. (Reuters photo: Gary Cameron)
No way, says an incoherent rant in the New York Times

‘Abortion is liberty.”

So says Lindy West, the latest angry feminist to lose her marbles over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman’s announcement that the party is willing to fund pro-life candidates in the 2018 elections.

West’s op-ed in today’s New York Times pushes the very outer limits of sanity, referring to the “nineteen hyenas and a broken vacuum cleaner” that apparently occupy the White House, while simultaneously lamenting that “ice is becoming extinct.” These witty opening sallies out of the way, West gets right down to business:

There is no recognizable version of the Democratic Party that does not fight unequivocally against half its constituents’ being stripped of ownership of their own bodies and lives. . . . To legislatively oppose abortion is to be, at best, indifferent to the disenfranchisement, suffering and possibly even the death of women. At worst it is to revel in those things, to believe them fundamental to the natural order.

“Safe, legal, and rare” is so far away at this point that we’d need the Hubble Space Telescope to catch a glimpse of it from where West is standing. In her hysterical mind, opposing the most debated procedure in the U.S. is tantamount to being indifferent to women dying, or even reveling in women’s deaths.

The irony in this position is astounding. Being against abortion, West says, “puts people’s fundamental humanity up for debate.” And yet that’s exactly what she does to the lives that are inarguably ended in every abortion procedure: denies their fundamental humanity and revels in their deaths.

West cites a few highly irrelevant statistics to prove that abortion isn’t even slightly controversial any more. She quotes a Pew poll finding that “nearly 70 percent of all Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, while 75 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.”

These are remarkably unhelpful numbers. For one thing, there is a vast difference between opposing the overturning of Roe and wholeheartedly supporting abortion at all stages of pregnancy for any reason. Research shows that most Americans incorrectly believe overturning Roe would ban abortion nationwide. In fact, it would simply return abortion law to each state’s government.

Fully 58 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents say they want significant restrictions on the ability to get an abortion.

What’s more, when terms are clearly defined, abortion is much less popular than West leads you to believe. Yes, a majority of Americans support the right to abortion, especially early in pregnancy, but most also support significant restrictions on the procedure. A mere 16 percent of Americans believe abortion should be available throughout pregnancy. Meanwhile, 58 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents say they want significant restrictions on the ability to get an abortion.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including almost 80 percent of Millennials, support legislation prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Seventy-four percent of Americans, including 54 percent of self-described pro-choice individuals, support placing at least some restrictions on abortion.

A full 55 percent of people who supported Hillary Clinton last November favor significant abortion restrictions, and nearly 80 percent of both black and Hispanic Americans support such limitations. Two-thirds of Americans — including 40 percent of self-described pro-choice individuals and 40 percent of Clinton supporters — oppose federal funding for abortion.

This is not the portrait of an America — or even an American Left — fully unified around the unlimited right to abortion. This is clearly a divided America, one that, on the whole, wants to limit abortion to early in pregnancy and only for serious reasons.

But West makes clear that any Democrats not totally on board with her ultra-leftist view of abortion rights are cordially invited to take a hike. “What are anti-choice Democrats going to do?” she asks. “Become Republicans? . . . Jump into the abattoir of clown meat whose top policy priority seems to be ‘poor people deserve to die of preventable diseases’?”

There’s the warm welcome and spirit of inclusion that’ll endear progressives to the white middle-class voters and moderate Americans who report being turned off by the Democratic party’s increasingly left-wing message.

And yet, there is one thing West manages to get right: “This issue represents everything Democrats purport to stand for.” Not all Democrats are as rabidly pro-choice as West and her fellow abortion-rights activists, but there is no question that this issue has, in practice, become a litmus test for the Democratic party, and an increasingly radical test at that.

For too many progressives, “abortion is liberty.” But any vision of freedom that is paid for with millions of human lives will not and cannot set anyone free. The DCCC was right to minimize the utterly outsized role that abortion has taken on in the Democratic party. This strident screed from West should do nothing to change their minds.


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