- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pro-life Democrats say the party’s uncompromising abortion extremism is just another sign that its leaders are out of touch with the views of ordinary Americans, who, even if they support abortion rights, are conflicted about the weighty moral question.

The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, said Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas E. Perez and other party higher-ups are committing political suicide by demanding ideological purity when it comes to abortion.

“Mr. Perez’s invitation to leave the Democratic Party is essentially an act of political suicide on the part of Democrats,” said Mr. Rivers, a registered Democrat. “The Democrats — by which I mean the Davos, Martha’s Vineyard wing of the party — have said to religious black people and people of faith, ‘We don’t want you.’”

After Nebraska Democrats nominated former state Sen. Heath Mello, a pro-life Catholic, in the Omaha mayoral race, Mr. Perez made clear that candidates running under the Democratic banner must support abortion rights.

“Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own choices. Period,” Mr. Perez said in a statement.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said that is not a winning strategy in Middle America.

“You know, the rest of the country is not New York and California,” Ms. Day said. “And I think the Democratic Party is trying to impose those values on the rest of the country.”

She said it’s not a coincidence that the only Democratic governor in the South, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, is pro-life.

After years of advocating “safe, legal and rare” abortion, Democrats amended their party platform last year to drop the third term in that triumvirate and to endorse taxpayer funding for abortion.

But the left turn on abortion has not led to electoral success.

The stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton in the presidential race capped off a decade of Democratic losses at the state and federal levels.

The Republican Party flipped more than 1,000 state legislative seats during President Obama’s tenure and, in addition to a unified federal government, controls 68 of 99 legislative chambers and 33 governors’ mansions.

Ms. Day said abortion is an issue that can swing local races — in the pro-life direction.

“Republicans honestly made the smarter move by taking the pro-life stance because they’re able to effectively use it in campaigns to win,” she said. “They’ve been able to beat Democrats by associating them with this pro-life extremism that the Democratic Party has adopted.”

Mr. Rivers said former President Bill Clinton successfully employed a big-tent strategy that allowed for reasonable disagreement about abortion and that the party’s current electoral woes are self-inflicted.

“The Clinton administration understood that you were not going to be able to penetrate the South and flyover America if you had a hostile attitude with regard to different perspectives, and that there has to be some openness for considering or allowing dissenting opinions in the party,” he said. “The party has gone to the hard left. It’s become a very narrow, ideologically rigid party.”

But Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the Democratic Party needs to double down on abortion rights if it wants a turnaround.

“If Democrats think the path forward following the 2016 election is to support candidates who substitute their own judgment and ideology for that of their female constituents, they have learned all the wrong lessons and are bound to lose,” Ms. Hogue said in a statement.

Pointing to polls that show one-third of Democrats identify as pro-life, Ms. Day said party leaders would be wise to remember who their constituents are.

After all, she said, “it’s not the Planned Parenthood or NARAL party.”

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