Democrats End Abortion Litmus Test

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by Stephen Wynne  •  •  August 1, 2017   

Campaign chairman says party open to funding pro-life candidates

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WASHINGTON ( - Democrats are distancing themselves from their much-criticized litmus test on abortion.

In an interview published in The Hill Monday, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced that pro-life Democrats will be allowed to represent the party in more conservative areas of the country.

"There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates," he said. "As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America."

As chairman of the party's House campaign wing, Luján is pushing for a more ideologically inclusive Democratic Party, recognizing that without pro-life votes, it will continue to lose votes.

Luján's goal is to recapture the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections. To achieve this, Democrats must pick up 24 seats to reach 218 — no small order in the current political climate.

"We'll need a broad coalition to get that done," Luján conceded. 

The move represents a reversal of sorts for the party, which has become more stridently pro-abortion in recent years.

In July 2016, at the opening of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to declare Hillary Clinton the nominee for president, Democrats adopted the most radically pro-abortion platform in American political history. This was followed in April 2017 by party infighting over how "ideologically pure" candidates should be on abortion.

The controversy erupted when Democratic National Committee head, Tom Perez, and Bernie Sanders voiced support for pro-life Democrat Heath Mello's bid to become mayor of Omaha. After discovering Mello's position on abortion, NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) slammed Democrats for supporting a pro-life candidate. Perez and Sanders countered that the party should incorporate a number of diverse perspectives. 

DNC Chairman Tom Perez

But Perez later yielded to NARAL Pro-Choice America pressure, announcing the party would effectively establish a litmus test for Democratic candidates, whereby pro-life candidates would be denied financial support from the party. "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health," he declared. "That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state," he asserted. 

Democratic party leader, Nancy Pelosi, then weighed in, cautioning that the party should remain open to supporting pro-life candidates where appropriate.

"I grew up Nancy D'Alesandro in Baltimore, Maryland, in Little Italy in a very devout Catholic family — fiercely patriotic, proud of our town and heritage and staunchly Democratic," Pelosi said. "Most of those people — my family, extended family — are not pro-choice. You think I'm kicking them out of the Democratic Party?" she asked. 

The pragmatic flip-flop comes after almost a decade of devastating electoral losses for the Democrats. Under the leadership of Obama and Pelosi, the party has suffered the worst electoral record in decades. Since 2008, Democrats have lost more than 1,030 legislative and executive seats.  
The party's rout at the ballot box has been blamed, in part, on its uncompromising abortion stance.
In June, representatives of Democrats for Life of America met with Perez at DNC headquarters to discuss softening the leadership's position on abortion. They delivered to Perez a list of requests, including "a public statement on the DNC website and a letter from the chairman to all state and local party chairs, explaining that the party does not support an abortion litmus test and pressuring people to change their position on life."
In a statement afterward, the DNC offered no comment on these requests.
"Our party has always welcomed different opinions on several issues, and Tom is committed to listening to all Democrats as we work to rebuild our party. Our party platform makes clear that Democrats trust women to make their own choices about their body and their health, and Tom stands by this,” a DNC spokeswoman said.
Fixing his gaze on 2018, Luján, meanwhile, is mindful that every vote will count. "To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job," he observed. "We have to be a big family in order to win the House back."
A January Marist poll showed that almost six in ten Americans — and four in 10 Democrats — believe abortion is morally wrong.


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