A growing number of pro-choice Democrats are telling their pro-life colleagues that their days in office are numbered. But will their strategy work?
In the aftermath of the fetal heartbeat bills that were recently signed into law in Georgia and Alabama (Missouri will likely be next), enraged Democratic party politicians and pro-abortion groups are making one thing increasingly clear: Pro-life Democrats who hold elected office should be purged from the party.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a 2020 candidate for president, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that being pro-abortion should be a “non-negotiable” position in the Democratic party:
“As a party, we should be 100 percent pro-choice, and it should be nonnegotiable,” Gillibrand said in our interview. “We should not settle for less, and if our party cannot support women’s basic human rights, their fundamental freedoms to make decisions about their bodies and their futures, then we are not the party of women. … I will not compromise on women’s reproductive freedom.”
The senator attributes the more strident tone to the fact that more women are participating in politics, and they are more passionate about protecting their rights than the men who used to call the shots in the party. “I think women’s voices are being heard now more than ever,” said Gillibrand. “Women are feeling self-empowered. I don’t think they’re going to take excuses anymore, and I don’t think they’re going to support candidates that don’t believe they should get to make those fundamentally personal decisions.”
One target of this “you’re with us or you’re the enemy” strategy is Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3), a pro-life Democrat who is facing a primary challenge from Marie Newman, the same woman who tried to primary him in 2018.
Gillibrand endorsed Newman’s primary campaign in 2018 and endorsed her again last month:
“She’s got a tough race in front of her, but I promise you, Marie will represent her district better, and she will represent all of us better,” Gillibrand said. Moments earlier, Newman had endorsed Gillibrand’s presidential campaign.
Lipinski, one of just three House Democrats who regularly co-sponsors antiabortion legislation, has faced primary challenges in three of his eight elections.
Fellow 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also endorsed Newman in 2018, but he hasn’t weighed in on the 2020 primary yet.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA-17) is also not on board with Lipinski winning another term:
At a time when Roe v Wade is under threat with the Alabama law, the last person the DCCC should be supporting is Lipinski who does not believe in constitutional reproductive rights. It’s demeaning to women across this nation. https://t.co/a0sz7KvqZ5
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) May 16, 2019
House Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7) told reporters during a press conference on Friday that the party—including the DCCC—should embrace primary challenges to its pro-life members:
Jayapal issued a warning Friday to any Democratic colleagues who were not pro-abortion rights, saying they could see money and support disappear and instead pour into the campaigns of their primary challengers in the 2020 election cycle.
“I think we should allow for strong primary challenges, so that people can really put their Democratic chops on the line, if you will, and let the Democratic voters decide who they want,” she told a small group of reporters.
“I understand that the DCCC is funded by—we are a membership organization—it’s funded by our members. And I understand that the DCCC is often going to try to protect the incumbent,” Jayapal said. “But I do think we have to look at all of these issues and think about what it means to be a Democrat.”
Slate noted in a post-election article last year how the number of Democratic pro-lifers in the House and Senate keeps getting smaller with every election cycle:
Shortly after the anti-abortion group Democrats for Life of America was founded in the late 1990s, its website listed more than 40 members of Congress it had identified as pro-life. Back then, it wasn’t hard to find Democrats in public office who opposed abortion legislation, or at least spoke comfortably about their own anti-abortion convictions.
As late as 2009, anti-choice Democrats had enough sway in Congress to hold up the Affordable Care Act until they were allowed to vote on a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions.
Times have changed. This year, Democrats for Life found only seven candidates to endorse in both chambers of Congress combined. And the ranks of pro-life Democrats in Congress dwindled yet again on Tuesday night, when Sen. Joe Donnelly lost decisively to Republican businessman Mike Braun in Indiana.
Here in North Carolina, state Sen. Don Davis, a Democrat, voted along with five other Democrats in the state legislature for a pro-life bill designed to protect babies who survive an abortion attempt. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed the legislation, but Davis was the lone Democrat to vote with Senate Republicans on the April 30th to override Cooper’s veto.
Davis’s vote was key to making the Senate’s override successful. The N.C. House has not yet taken up the override issue.
State Sen. Natasha Marcus (D) called out Davis on Twitter over his vote, saying he “betrayed women”:
It’s extremely frustrating that one Democrat betrayed women, OB/GYNs, his party & @NC_Governor tonight in order to side w/ GOP and that one vote made all the difference ? #IStandwithWomen #veto #ncpol #choice #2020 #ncga https://t.co/hMz0D5RiY7
— Senator Natasha Marcus (@NatashaMarcusNC) May 1, 2019
Feminist groups vowed to primary him:
After Sen. Don Davis’ vote to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of@the “born-alive survivors” bill, several progressive orgs are recruit a primary challenger for him. #ncga #ncpol pic.twitter.com/64K7xmUnfd
— Lauren Horsch (@LaurenHorsch) May 1, 2019
Former state Sen. Joel Ford, a moderate Democrat who has said he feels like he no longer has a political home, slammed the pro-abortion group Lillian’s List for their attack on Davis:
Another example of an organization with very strict guidelines on how black elected officials must act & vote. @dondavis34 is a good man that voted his convictions and in the interest of his district and State. #ncpol https://t.co/YfEQJRaejU
— Joel Ford (@joeldford) May 2, 2019
Whether or not these groups are successful in purging pro-life Democrats from the party remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The Democratic party has become not just the party of abortion, but the party of abortion extremism.
In the aftermath of New York Democrats cheerfully celebrating completely decriminalizing abortion in January and in response to Va. Gov. Ralph Northam’s and Va. House Delegate Kathy Tran’s disturbing remarks on infanticide just a short time after that, Republicans decided to push back in force. They effectively painted pro-choice Democrats as heartless ghouls who were okay with letting a baby who survived an abortion attempt die as long as the financial support from Planned Parenthood and NARAL kept rolling in.
If Republicans continue to be successful in exposing the pro-choice left, these abortion rights groups and their Congressional allies like Jayapal and Khanna might find that ousting pro-life Democrats from office will be a lot harder than they thought.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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