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A Return to the Big Tent? Pro-Life Democrats Demand a Place Inside the Party


WASHINGTON -- Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Ben Ray Luja'n, D-N.M., made political heads spin when he told a reporter from The Hill  "there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates."

He went on to say, "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."

Meaning, if a particular part of the country embraces the pro-life movement, why shouldn't the candidate match the voters?  And why shouldn't that same candidate have the backing of the Democratic Party?

A similar sentiment has also trickled down from the top.

"I grew up Nancy D'Alesandro, in Baltimore, Maryland, in Little Italy, in a very devout Catholic family, fiercely patriotic… and staunchly Democratic," House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi,D-Calif., told The Washington Post.

"Most of those people, my family, and my extended family are NOT pro-choice. You think I'm kicking them out of the Democratic Party?" she continued. 

But with that seemingly open door, came immediate disapproval from staunch pro-abortion groups.

"Ignoring women's fundamental freedoms and equality to win elections is an ethically and politically bankrupt strategy," tweeted Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Actress Rosie O'Donnell took to Twitter, saying, "Women should form our own party if Dems do this."

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has also repeatedly doubled down on the notion the Democratic Party is the pro-choice party.

Pro-Life Democrat Not a New Concept

But for pro-life advocates like Kristen Day, the idea of a pro-life Democrat is nothing new.

Day is the executive director of Democrats for Life of America and has been a part of the pro-life Democratic movement for 15 years.  

Day told CBN News there are a lot of voters out there just like her.
"About a third of Democrats oppose abortion…when you look at other issues, such as 20-week bans, the number is much higher," said Day.

According to Democrats for Life, there are 21 million pro-life Democrats. There are also many more Republicans that would consider the Democratic Party if it were not for their hard nose stance on abortion.

She says for "Whole-Life" Democrats like herself, it's about supporting the life of the baby throughout the entire pregnancy and beyond. 

"People said, 'Let's just pass this 20-week ban,' but they didn't think about what happened next. We were looking at, if you ban abortion after 20 weeks, what do the women do who have the prenatal diagnosis? What do women do who are working and will lose their jobs after they have the baby?" Day explained.

"We started a 'Choose Both' campaign. If you are going to pass the 20-week ban, you also have to pass paid maternity leave," she continued.

Day explained the idea of Whole Life also means caring for mothers after they have the baby through counseling and by supporting perinatal hospice centers.

Perinatal hospice centers provide care for babies who are not expected to live long beyond their birth. 

Pro-Life Dems Remain Hopeful

Day said she is cautiously optimistic about changes in her party.

"When you look at the people who are making the most noise against it, it's the abortion rights people. But when you look at the big picture and you see Charlie Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, Sen. Harris of California, the list goes on of people who agree with me that we need to have a big tent," she said.

But a clear vision for the movement aside, will there be enough single-issue voters to actually make a difference? Will there actually be enough Republican voters willing to switch parties?

"I hear it all the time. There's a whole group of voters out there that we are neglecting," Day told CBN News.

Plus, there's the issue of the Democratic Party itself, which hasn't exactly been welcoming to the pro-life movement.

But the growing recognition of candidates like Arkansas' Paul Spencer gives pro-life Dems a flicker of hope. Spencer is running for a seat in Arkansas' 2nd District.

Spencer is a pro-life Democrat and has refused to accept funding from the party.

Day said pro-choice groups and Planned Parenthood have had a strangle-hold on the party for years and it's time to cut loose.

The pro-life Family Research Council told CBN News, it is time for REAL change within the party. 

“The Democratic party is beginning to realize that its electoral struggles will only worsen if it continues to define itself by its support for the killing of unborn babies. The Democratic party has branded itself as the abortion party and pro-life America delivered a disastrous blow to it this election cycle," said Arina O. Grossu, Director for Human Dignity for FRC. 

"Instead of trying to hoodwink authentically pro-life Democrats for political gain by making the Democratic tent nebulous, it’s time that the Democratic party reconsider its stance on abortion altogether.  Abortion is the greatest social injustice of our time and any party that continues to support abortion will ultimately fail," Grossu continued. 

A Political Ploy?

Critics have called the welcoming of pro-life candidates a political ploy in an attempt to take back Congress.

Day said she wouldn't call it a ploy but a strategy.

"It's a strategy to win. Our party is in deep trouble right now. We could stay and be the party of resistance and opposition," Day explained.

But that doesn't mean that strategy doesn't come from an honest place, at least not for her.

"I've been doing this for a long time," Day said.

She said hearing heart-breaking abortion stories over the years will propel her to keep fighting for room inside the tent.

She also said she will continue the battle against abortion rights groups and her support of Whole Life perinatal hospice.

"They are not leading them away from abortion; they are leading them towards life," she concluded. 

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