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.

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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 PelosiAs families deal with coronavirus, new federal dollars should follow the student Sunday shows - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death dominates Hypocrisy rules on both sides over replacing Justice Ginsburg 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 HarrisSocial Security and Medicare are on the ballot this November Harris honors Ginsburg, visits Supreme Court The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins MORE (D-Calif.).

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“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 Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally DCCC dropping million on voter education program Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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 GillibrandSunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Suburban moms are going to decide the 2020 election Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersNYT editorial board remembers Ginsburg: She 'will forever have two legacies' Two GOP governors urge Republicans to hold off on Supreme Court nominee Sanders knocks McConnell: He's going against Ginsburg's 'dying wishes' MORE (I-Vt.) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeBarr asked prosecutors to explore charging Seattle mayor over protest zone: report Bottom line Oregon senator says Trump's blame on 'forest management' for wildfires is 'just a big and devastating lie' 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.