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December 23, 2004
Democrats Rethinking Abortion, Or Merely Repackaging?

The Los Angeles Times picks up on a movement within the Democratic Party to moderate their views on abortion in order to capture the American political center again. Peter Wallsten and Mary Curtis report that the Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have urged former Congressman and 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer to run for DNC chair, against vehemently pro-abortion Howard Dean:

After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters.

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee, particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.

Bear in mind that Roemer does not advocate a right-to-life position, making this less of a conflict than the Times might imply. He urges some common-sense moves towards the middle on abortion, such as supporting parental notification and banning late-term abortions. In the GOP, of course, plenty of politicians already cover this ground and routinely get pilloried for trampling womens' rights by those with vested interest in the abortion industry, like Planned Parenthood. Roemer gets the same suspicion from the same people in the Democratic Party, and these groups have tremendous clout:

Abortion rights activists are critical pillars of the Democratic Party, providing money and grass-roots energy. Some of them say they are concerned that Democratic leaders are entertaining any changes to the party's approach to abortion.

A senior official of one of the nation's largest abortion rights groups said she would be concerned if the party were to choose Roemer to head the Democratic National Committee. "We want people who are pro-choice. Of course I would be disappointed," said the official, who asked that her name be withheld because of her close alliance with party officials.

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Democratic strategists who were pushing for the abortion discussion had misconstrued the results of the November election by overstating the strength of "values" voters. She said the party should remain committed to the "women of America, and their health and their lives and their rights."

Activists from these organization deliver millions of dollars and votes to the Democrats every cycle, and any retreat from their extremist positions will endanger the party's already-weak political position. If the Democrats truly pursued Roemer's vision, a split could occur where the abortion industry could wind up underwriting the Greens -- especially in peacetime, when a split would be seen as less egregious.

Even with Nancy Pelosi (pro-abortion) and Harry Reid (somewhat pro-life) backing Roemer's candidacy, the DNC consists mainly of the special-interest groups that the Democrats service: unions, lawyers, and the abortion industry being predominant. I doubt that they will endanger their cash flow by selecting Roemer, especially with the more celebrated Howard Dean in the running. Even if they did, I hardly see Roemer moving the Democrats towards supporting any of the policies he urges. Roemer would be little more than a beard for abortion moderates, a way to (as Pelosi argues) demonstrate the "big tent" of the Democratic Party without actually acting on his beliefs.

As John Kerry's candidacy proved, one cannot run for office as a pro-abortion nut and still convince pro-lifers that he doesn't believe in abortion. Even Kerry himself acknowledges this, which is why he flip-flopped yet again and provided the impetus for this introspection on the part of the Democrats. His leadership on this issue makes me even more suspicious that the debate on abortion among Democrats relates to superficial lip service than any true movement to protect innocent human life. However, it measures the success of the pro-life movement in communicating the issues to Americans that the Democrats now have to scramble to catch up.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2004 6:25 AM

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After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters. [LA Times] While a change... [Read More]

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