Democrats’ reluctance to recruit pro-life candidates could hinder them as they try to win enough seats to retake the U.S. House next year, according to a pro-life party leader.
Kristen Day, executive chairwoman of Democrats for Life of America, said the national party’s stance has almost certainly cost it the chance to make a run at the seat that covers Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and said there are likely other places as well where a Democrat would be more competitive if he or she held pro-life views.
“You see it all over the place,” Ms. Day said. “When you look at the 1st Congressional District in Michigan, we’ve pretty much handed that over to Republicans.”
Analysts were reluctant to put a number on how many districts might swing with a pro-life Democratic candidate, but said House seats in the north and upper Midwest are exactly the kinds of places where the issue could be playing a role in Democrats’ struggles.
Republicans are generally a pro-life party but have been less insistent about that as a litmus test. Democrats, however, have struggled over how vehemently to enforce their pro-choice stance.
Last month Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party organization charged with trying to win control of the House, said it would not impose a litmus test for candidates — sparking fierce blowback.
Liberal activist groups urged financial boycotts of the DCCC and told pro-choice donors to make sure their money went to pro-choice candidates or political action committees that would only back those candidates.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said last week that there’s no need to open the party up, claiming that some of the most Republican districts in the country are actually overwhelmingly pro-choice.
“And people even in some of the most conservative areas of the country who may themselves personally say ‘I would never choose to have an abortion’ or ‘That’s not something that’s right for me,’ also absolutely do not believe politicians should be making decisions about pregnancy for women,” Ms. Richards told Politico.
The Pew Research Center’s latest polling shows Democrats are more unified, with 75 percent saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to 22 percent who say it should be illegal in all or most cases. Among the GOP, 34 percent says it should generally be legal, while 65 percent says mostly or completely illegal.
As Democrats fight over their party’s openness, pro-life groups say they’re reaching out to inform voters of the Democratic platform, hoping to swing support among low-turnout pro-life voters in Ohio and Florida.
“Party leaders and vulnerable Democrat senators up for re-election in 2018, take note: slamming the door in these voters’ faces is how elections are lost,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, said in a statement.
The chief example of a seat where pro-life stances matter is Michigan’s 1st District, which was held by Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat, for years until his 2011 retirement. Mr. Stupak led the push for pro-life protections to be written into Obamacare.
After his retirement, the seat went GOP.
Ms. Day says that’s because Democrats keep running candidates that are too extreme on issues like abortion and discount the importance of the issue to voters. She says this problem is seen across the country in “Middle America.”
“I think it’s become much more hard-line now. What happened is the pro-choice Democrats kinda felt like Hillary Clinton is going to win, and they made the abortion platform more radical. But what they didn’t realize is they alienated pro-life Democrats who didn’t vote for her,” she said.
She’s asked the DCCC to work with her on the issue, but the campaign committee rejected that.
“The DCCC has no interest in working with Democrats for Life of America, despite their attempts,” DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly told The Atlantic.
The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.