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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 Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 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 ClintonAmerica departs Afghanistan as China arrives Young, diverse voters fueled Biden victory over Trump McConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by 'the end of the year' MORE lost. We cannot make this mistake again.”

The letter is unlikely to affect the party's platform. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Manchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals 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 HarrisOde to Mother's Day Warren says she'll run for reelection to Senate In honor of Mother's Day, lawmakers should pass the Momnibus Act 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.