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Democrats for Life urge DNC to change party platform on abortion

Democrats for Life urge DNC to change party platform on abortion
© Stefani Reynolds

More than 100 Democrats affiliated with the anti-abortion group Democrats for Life have signed a letter urging the party to change its abortion stance in this year's platform.

Signatories include Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonDemocrats seek wave to bolster House majority Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade MORE (Minn.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.), who lost his March primary to a progressive. Fifty-six state legislators also signed the letter addressed to the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee.

The letter urges the Democratic Party to adopt the abortion language from its 2000 platform, which recognized differences of opinion on abortion as a “source of strength” and welcomed Americans of all abortion stances.

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The letter argues that the party’s embrace of abortion rights will alienate voters, particularly in battleground states.

“We should not cede large swathes of the United States to the Republican Party,” the letter reads. “In the US, pro-life Democrats have been a critical part of the coalition to expand voting rights, improve health care, and pass criminal justice reform. These accomplishments would not have been possible if the Democratic Party had in place a litmus test on abortion.”

The 2020 Democratic platform, which was released last month and will be voted on and formally approved by Democratic National Committee (DNC) members at next week's virtual convention, unequivocally supports abortion rights.

“Like the majority of Americans, Democrats believe that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion,” the draft platform reads.

In the draft, Democrats also commit to restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, opposing state laws that limit abortion rights, repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services, and codifying the Roe v. Wade court case that provides a legal defense of abortion.

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Friday's letter, however, calls for the party to abandon language supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and codification of Roe v. Wade.

“As Democrats, we are anti-Trump and enthusiastic supporters of Black Lives Matter,” Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said in a statement Friday. “Why is dismembering preborn children the hill we want to die on when so much is at stake? We took this issue for granted in 2016, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Trump fights for battleground Arizona Biden leads Trump by 12 in new national poll MORE lost. We cannot make this mistake again.”

The letter is unlikely to affect the party's platform. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE last year said he supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents Medicaid coverage of abortion. Biden had previously supported Hyde for several decades.

His running mate, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump fights for battleground Arizona Biden to air 90-minute radio programs targeting Black voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters MORE (D-Calif.), has been a staunch defender of abortion rights. She has a 100 percent voting record according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, which scores members of Congress based on their votes on abortion rights issues.

A 2019 Pew Research study found that 70 percent of those who identify as or lean Democrat support the party’s position on abortion.

Language defending abortion rights has been part of every Democratic platform since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The 1976 platform said it would be “undesirable” to overturn the court’s decision.

Platforms in the 1990s and 2000s focused on making abortions “safe, legal and rare” -- a phrase used by former President Clinton during his 1992 campaign. But in 2016, the party adopted more proactive language, calling for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment and focusing on the concept of reproductive justice, or eliminating discrimination and barriers that disadvantage low-income women and women of color in seeking reproductive health care, including abortions.