No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test
In our increasingly polarized political landscape, we’re witnessing a growing trend among political candidates for office. Our democratic republic is designed for representation by politicians of constituents. These days, there is much less representation and much more of a leaning-in to extreme and out-of-touch party lines at the expense of the far-less polarized populous. A recent announcement by the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) is one such example.
Despite the fact that one in three Democratic voters identify as pro-life, DAGA stated this month that, from now on, all candidates who want to receive financial support from the association will have to publicly endorse abortion. In other words, leaders for one of our nation’s two major political parties have just said that pro-life candidates need not apply for the position of a state’s top law enforcement official.
This is a terrible policy that harms all Americans, and Democrats in particular. A litmus test from any political party that requires candidates to support abortion flies in the face of scientific advances about the beginning of life. Beyond that, the policy contradicts views held by most Americans. It’s a move that promises to alienate the millions of Democrats who identify as pro-life and will likely contribute to even worse fracturing of civil society.
While DAGA is the first Democratic political organization to institute a cut-and-dried abortion litmus test for candidates, it isn’t the first time the party leadership has made efforts to eliminate intraparty discussion about abortion. In 2016, the Democratic Party platform openly declared its unequivocal support of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
This decision at the top apparently took an immediate toll: In the 2018 elections, the organization Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) found only seven Democratic pro-life candidates to endorse for Congress. Within the Senate, 42 out of 45 Democrats have a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, meaning that they vote in Planned Parenthood’s interests. Thankfully, there remain two pro-life Democrats in the Senate — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
The truth is, despite DAGA’s litmus test, abortion is not a partisan issue. Three out of four Republicans identify as pro-life, but DFLA has found that so do one in three Democrats. Thirty-six percent of Americans who identify as “politically moderate” describe themselves as pro-life, along with a surprisingly high 12 percent of Americans who say they are liberal or very liberal.
DAGA’s new policy also does not reflect the trend in Americans’ attitude towards abortion. Far from becoming universally more supportive of extreme pro-abortion platforms, Americans — particularly younger ones — have more reservations about abortion than in the past, possibly because of advances in science and prenatal technology. In January, seven out of 10 millennials said that they support limitations on abortion such as keeping federal tax dollars from paying for abortions, prohibiting second- and third-trimester abortions, and requiring parental notification and waiting periods.
Science continually nudges us towards the truth that babies in the womb are fully human, and it is having political consequences — as will pro-abortion litmus tests for candidates. The reality is that Democratic candidates who manage to appeal to a pro-life base can muster considerable political clout, even in traditionally Republican parts of the country. Just days before DAGA unveiled its abortion litmus test, pro-life Democrat John Bel Edwards won a second term as governor of deep-red Louisiana, indicating that there is indeed a strong desire for Democratic candidates who recognize the value of every human life.
Despite the obvious diversity of thought among Democratic voters and the strategic value of embracing pro-life Democratic candidates, DAGA has chosen to advance a position that eliminates freedom of thought on a vital issue in American politics. Now, Democratic candidates for attorney general will be allowed to hold different views on issues as varied as freedom of speech to immigration reform, but no variation will be tolerated on the issue of life.
Edwards’s victory indicates that the Democratic Party should be pursuing the opposite tack: Rather than alienating pro-life voters and candidates, it should be making space for them within the party. Pro-abortion litmus tests from any political party can drive away the millions of voters who believe that life begins at conception and who find unrestricted abortion intolerable. It is needlessly divisive and will only postpone the day when all Americans enjoy full protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.