Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party? Delegates say yes

Democrats for Life of America isn’t pro-life in spite of its Democratic stance, but because of it

The Democrats for Life of America are as fiercely Democrat as they are in favour of overturning Roe vs. Wade, one of the Republican Party’s most ambitious goals, and one of the party’s worst nightmares.

Eva Ritchie, the president of North Carolina Pro-Life Democrats, tells me the group is opposed to abortion in cases of rape and incest. (It’s the same position held by Missouri Republican Todd Akin.) Eva Ritchey was one of a small crowd at the Democratic National Convention’s only pro-life event, a panel discussion called “Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party?” The answer was, of course, yes. Not only is it possible, the group argued, it is commonsense.

Thomas C. Berg, an academic Catholic from Chicago, told an audience of about 50 that abortion rates are four times as high among people below the poverty line. “The problem of abortion cannot be seriously addressed without [Democratic] values,” he said.  Of the Romney-Ryan plan, he observes, “There’s nothing pro-life about anti-poverty spending.”

This group, then, isn’t pro-life in spite of its Democratic stance, but because of it. Anti-abortion Pennsylvania congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper describes being a “whole life Democrat.” They’d like to legislate social policies that would see a fetus to birth and all the way to natural death. The logo of the North Carolina Pro Life Democrats features a party donkey nuzzling a baby donkey.

From panelist to panelist, the sentiment was the same: The GOP’s stance on abortion is hypocritical because its aversion to social programs is harmful to the unborn once they enter the real world. This is why they often refer to Republicans as “pro-birth,” not “pro-life.” They insist that if Romney and Ryan are elected, budget cuts to social programs and women’s health would mean an increasing number of women would have no choice but to resort to abortion. A GOP government would, apparently, lead to “thousands of new deaths among the unborn.”

Some find this stance problematic, especially because Barack Obama is a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood, the non-profit women’s health organization that allocates 3 per cent of its funding to accessible abortions.

Breeanee Howe, a reporter from the conservative political website redstate.com believes Obama is not only a supporter of infanticide, but secretly endorses the selling of dead babies’ body parts. “I was a [Democrat] a long time ago,” she tells me, “but I converted in all ways.

“I was pro choice for a long time, but that’s cause I didn’t understand anything. My husband felt like I was probably Republican before I knew it. Once he explained it me, it kind of felt like I was leaning toward the Republican Party anyway, I just didn’t realize it.” (There you have it, Canada: The epitome of a free-thinking woman.)

Democrats for Life of America insist 21 million Democrats identify as pro-life. They argue the party is losing support from independents and issue voters who are excited by the left-leaning party’s commitment to the less fortunate, but put off by its pro-choice platform. “Elites within this party don’t believe we need the pro-life Democrats,” says former U.S. congressman and panelist Bart Stupak. “But Democrats cannot hold majority without pro-life Democrats.”

The women down the street from him didn’t seem to notice.

After my morning with the pro-lifers, I walked through the tent city of Occupy Charlotte — it smelled way worse than Toronto’s — and into the heart of a vehemently pro-choice Planned Parenthood rally. Hordes of women (and a few men) in pink T-shirts waved pink Obama signs and danced to soul music blaring from speakers on a stage erected for the rally’s high-profile speakers: Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, the woman Rush Limbaugh famously called “a slut” for suggesting women should have access to affordable contraception. The Planned Parenthood mascot, “Pillamina,” a pretty blonde in a giant birth control suit, ran from one end of the stage to the other to rev up the crowd with pro-choice chants: “You say ‘Planned,’ I say ‘Parenthood.’ … ‘Your vote is your voice, vote pro-choice!'”

It was a five-minute walk from that quiet hotel conference room where a predominantly older, Catholic crowd, talked about their love for the unborn, but it felt a world away.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker brought down the house when he suggested that having Republicans insist they love women because they have mothers and sisters is like saying, “I love Hispanics because I eat at Taco Bell.”

“I wanna tell all those people who say, ‘I love women’ [read Ann Romney], don’t tell me about it. Be about it!’”

The rally was light on abortion talk, probably because Planned Parenthood wanted to emphasize its non-abortion related programs—initiatives that take up the vast majority of its funds.

Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin’s 4th congressional district, took the stage after Booker. She said Planned Parenthood was the very first health care provider she went to as an adult. “They do screening for breast cancer,” she said. “Many women learn they are diabetic. It’s for women who have no health care.”

As for the Democrats for Pro Life America and their insistence that the party is alienating 21 million pro-life democratic voters: “There will always be single issue voters,” says Moore. Whether or not they will matter in this election, remains to be seen.

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