Politics & Policy

At the March for Life, a Timely Reminder of the Importance (and Dearth) of Pro-Life Democrats

Pro-life demonstrators recite the Pledge of Allegiance at a rally before the start of the 47th annual March For Life in Washington, January 24, 2020. (Mary F. Calvert/Reuters)
Friday’s rally saw a standout speech from Louisiana state representative Katrina Jackson, a Democrat who spearheaded the state’s abortion restrictions.

Louisiana state representative Katrina Jackson stood out on the stage at Friday’s March for Life as an African-American woman and the only elected Democrat to address the nation’s largest pro-life rally.

Jackson is the author of the 2014 Louisiana abortion restrictions at the heart of a Supreme Court case that will be heard this spring. In 2019, Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards became the first Democratic governor in the country to approve a ban on abortion after the unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.

“Louisiana is the number one pro-life state. And do you know why? Because in Louisiana, the majority of Democrats who are elected are pro-lifers,” Jackson told the crowd. “Every day that I walk into the state capitol, I am greeted by pro-lifers regardless of whether they’re black, white, Republican, Democrat, male, female.”

Jackson’s presence at the event was a reminder of the importance of pro-life Democrats — that the right to life ought to be too important to leave at the mercy of partisan politics. Her presence was also a reminder of just how few elected pro-life Democrats there are left in the country. Although she is only a state representative, she was the highest-ranking Democrat to address the crowd. (Edwards’s wife, Donna, also spoke.)

In the U.S. House, there are only three pro-life Democrats left: Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, and Henry Cuellar of Texas. Lipinski barely survived a Democratic primary challenge motivated by his pro-life stance in 2017, and he faces a similarly tough challenge again this year. Cuellar, meanwhile, declined to join Lipinski and Peterson this year in signing on to an amicus brief calling for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

By contrast, Republicans were out in full force at the March for Life: Several Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate were on stage, and Donald Trump became the first president in history to address the rally in person rather than by video.

Trump delivered some scathing but accurate remarks about congressional Democratic leaders’ support for taxpayer funding of abortion and unrestricted access to the procedure until the moment of birth. He concluded his remarks on an uplifting note: “We know that every human soul is divine and every human life, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of Almighty God.”

The president’s presence was cause for some controversy, as it always is. His past remarks have often been at odds with the rhetoric he used at the March for Life about the dignity of every human life. So how exactly should pro-lifers think about the speech he gave on Friday?

Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, hasn’t been afraid to criticize immoral rhetoric and policies on either side of the aisle. In 2016, he warned that the “pro-life movement cannot coexist with either sexual revolutionary libertinism nor with Howard Stern-style misogyny.” When he was asked at an event in Washington on Thursday what he thought of Trump’s scheduled appearance at the March for Life, Moore said: “I think it’s great for President Trump to come to the March for Life. I think it would be great for any president of the United States to come to the March for Life and to give greetings. So long as it’s very clear we are hearing from somebody and speaking to somebody, and that doesn’t mean that the entire movement hangs or falls on this one personality, whatever you think of the personality.”

“What we need for the pro-life movement is for elected officials to be in conversation with the pro-life movement consistently,” Moore added. “And we need a pro-life movement that transcends those politicians as well.”

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