Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party

Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party

Democrats are distancing themselves from the anti-abortion members of their party as a rash of governors sign laws putting new restrictions on the procedure.

While some party officials have avoided imposing a litmus test on candidates to support abortion rights, the raging debate has raised questions about whether there is room in the party for the few remaining anti-abortion Democrats like Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Edwards became the sixth governor this year — and the only Democrat — to sign into law a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually at about six weeks of pregnancy.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Lipinksi, co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks from progressives and abortion-rights groups who say the Democratic Party is no place for anti-abortion lawmakers.

“Women are the base of the Democratic Party, leading the charge for equality by fighting for reproductive freedom,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Political Director Nicole Brener-Schmitz said in a statement. “Governor Edwards, and any other elected official attempting to use political overreach to roll back our rights, is mistaken to think our fundamental freedoms are up for debate….He won’t get a pass just because he is a Democrat.”

The renewed debate over abortion rights, which has put people like Edwards and Lipinski in the spotlight ahead of the 2020 elections, comes at a time when state legislatures are passing abortion restrictions at record rates in hopes of forcing the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established a woman’s right to abortion.

Louisiana’s law won’t take effect unless a similar measure in Mississippi is upheld by a federal court. But Edwards’s role has angered Democrats who see abortion rights as an uncompromising and key part of the party’s platform.

Democratic party leaders, including the Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina MORE (Calif.) and Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda, as well as several presidential candidates, have all condemned Edwards for signing the abortion legislation into law.

“Dangerous attacks on women’s constitutional right to an abortion are outrageous no matter what party you’re in,” tweeted presidential candidate Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive MORE (D-Calif.).

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ll say it again: In this political climate, I will only support Democrats for office who will defend a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion,” tweeted presidential candidate Julián Castro, responding to news Thursday that Edwards signed into law a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban. 

But those rebukes have not led to action against Edwards by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which has attacked Republican governors for supporting similar bills. The group says it still plans to support Edwards in his 2020 reelection bid, arguing he has sided with the party on every other issue.

“He’s helped make a lot of progress for Louisianans, and that’s why we do and will continue to support his re-election effort,” DGA spokesman David Turner said in a statement to The Hill.

Similarly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it will maintain its policy of defending Democratic incumbents, meaning no withdrawal of support for Lipinski. 

However, Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings DCCC adds senior staffers after summer departures DCCC raises more than M in October MORE (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, backed out of a fundraiser last month for Lipinski after an outcry from abortion-rights supporters.

“I’m proud to have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and I’m deeply alarmed by the rapidly escalating attacks on women’s access to reproductive care in several states,” Bustos said in a statement last week.  

Lipinski is facing a tough primary challenge from businesswoman Marie Newman, who is supported by abortion rights groups NARAL Pro Choice America and Planned Parenthood. Three presidential candidates — Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAdvocacy groups decry Trump's 'anti-family policies' ahead of White House summit This bipartisan plan is the most progressive approach to paid parental leave Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director MORE (I-Vt.) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeFight against flavored e-cigarettes goes local Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate MORE (D) — have endorsed Newman over Lipinski, citing his position on abortion rights. 

"@MarieforCongress will protect a woman’s right to choose and equality for all Americans," Inslee tweeted last week. "That’s Marie Newman. Let’s get her elected."

Edwards and Lipinksi are very much in the minority when it comes to their positions on abortion. Edwards is the only anti-abortion Democratic governor, and Lipinski is one of only four House Democrats who identify as “pro-life.” In 1978, there were 125 House Democrats who shared Lipinski’s views.

Anti-abortion Democrats say it’s a mistake for the party to shun members who don’t agree with them on one issue.

“I think if the Democratic Party claims to be the big tent party, they will be much more successful if they truly include everybody,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.

“They can’t talk about diversity and inclusion and then tell pro-life Democrats that they aren’t included. It just goes against the Democratic values and what we stand for.”

This story was Tuesday at 8:03 p.m.