NEW YORK — As the Democratic primaries get underway, some pro-life Democrats are currently puzzling over their place within the party and considering how they might participate in the presidential nominating process.
Over the past two weeks, much debate has ensued, beginning when former mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg, told the executive director of Democrats for Life that he would not be open to changing the party platform to allow for a more moderate position on abortion rights.
“I am a proud Pro-Life Democrat,” Kristen Day said to Buttigieg at a Fox News town hall event ahead of the Iowa caucuses. “So, do you want the support of Pro-Life Democrats, Pro-Life Democratic voters? There are about 21 million of us, and if so, would you support more moderate platform language in the Democratic Party to ensure that the party of diversity and inclusion really does include everybody?”
In response, Buttigieg replied that the “best I can offer is that, if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. And in my view, it’s the woman who is faced with that decision in her own life.”
Buttigieg’s stance has also sparked the attention of Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta who took to Twitter to comment on the Maltese American candidate’s position on abortion.
“I want to see a future where every child is accepted as they are and has the support to grow into the person they’re meant to be,” wrote Buttigieg’s husband on Twitter.
“Right,” responded Scicluna to that comment, adding “And a future where every unborn child is recognized with his/her right to live and grow into the person they’re meant to be.”
Last weekend, ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Senator Bernie Sanders offered a more explicit rejection when asked by an MSNBC host during a town hall, “Is there such a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision of the party?”
“I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat,” said Sanders. “By this time in history . . . when we talk about what a Democrat is, I think being pro-choice is an essential part of that.”
Along with Buttigieg and Sanders, the other three leading contenders — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, along with Vice President Joe Biden — are all supporters of abortion rights, however days before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, Klobuchar seemed to signal an openness to welcoming pro-life voters.
Last Saturday, former Susan B. Anthony List staffer and pro-life advocate Chris Crawford posted a message on Twitter stating that he had asked Klobuchar if there was room in the party for pro-life Democrats.
“She said yes of course,” wrote Crawford. “I asked if she’d try to find common ground on bringing down the number of abortions. She said ‘Yes. Yes.’ And told me about her work in the adoption caucus in the Senate.”
The tweet has since garnered over 5,000 likes and the senator’s remarks promoted a follow-up from Meghan McCain, a co-host of the popular daytime television show The View.
Klobuchar went on to affirm that she is “strongly pro-choice,” but said that “we are a big tent party and there are pro-life Democrats and they are part of our party. And I think we need to build a big tent. I think we need to bring people in instead of shutting them out.”
In response to both Klobuchar’s comments — as well as the fact that abortion now seems to be an inescapable factor in the primary contest — Day told Crux that she is “cautiously optimistic” about where this all might lead.
“There definitely has been a shift,” she said on Wednesday morning, the day after Klobuchar surged to a strong third place finish in New Hampshire, securing nearly 20 percent of the vote. According to data from Pew Research Center, 17 percent of self-identified Democrats or those that who lean toward the Democratic party say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases
“The fact that she would go up against the abortion lobby and dare to say that pro-life Democrats are welcome is a good move for her and the party,” said Day.
Day told Crux that there’s more to learn about what Klobuchar’s position means and whether she will support changing the Democratic platform to reflect the diversity of opinions within the party and whether the Democratic National Committee will not impose a litmus test on candidates over the issue of abortion.
“Pro-life Democrats are highly motivated right now,” she said, adding that she’s been receiving nonstop e-mails and calls about expanding state chapters and the work of pro-Life Democrats at a grass roots level.
As to how this will shape the primary contest, Day says it remains to be seen, and South Carolina — which heads to the polls on February 29 — will “be a big test.”
“When you get to the South, it tends to be more religious,” she said, “and religious voters are more moderate on the abortion issue.” In fact, according to CNN exit polling from New Hampshire, Klobuchar won the most votes from voters who regularly attend religious services.
“Sanders and Buttigieg have said very firmly that they don’t want the pro-life vote,” she continued. “I think South Carolina is going to be very telling.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212
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