The Democratic Party of Missouri amended their official platform in June to soften its stance on abortion, in order to become more inclusive to pro-life Democrats. Unfortunately, the party walked this commitment back on August 11, voting unanimously to remove the pro-life-inclusive language that had only been present in the platform for a few weeks.
The June amendment’s language was fairly routine: “We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion.” The Democrats then went on to laud differing views on abortion as a source of strength for the party.
So why the sudden about-face? Was welcoming people of conscience merely a value-add for eight weeks, but no longer? Perhaps the June decision, although good on principle, was bad for voter appeal.
As one might expect, the announcement of the amendment’s revocation was shrouded in sanitized “reproductive rights” buzzwords. Per the Kansas City Star, alderwoman Annie Rice claimed, “Abortion is a legal healthcare procedure, and as a party we must support access.”
The executive director of pro-choice group NARAL Missouri, Alison Dreith, told the Kansas City Star the “right to access abortion care is in more danger now than ever” and that the party’s platform change “has put the party back on track just in time to pick up wins in November. This vote goes to show that when women organize, women win.”
But does excluding people of faith and conscience really help women win? More than that, does bolstering abortion access really help women win? Perhaps it just erodes our culture’s value of human life and belittles women by implying the only way they can get ahead is if they reflexively reject motherhood.
Dreith’s comments hit the nail squarely on the head. It was only briefly about principle, and now the party has shifted toward appealing to voters instead of recognizing the complexity of the ethical dilemma surrounding abortion. After all, attempting to resolve crucial life-or-death ethical dilemmas with Democrats of faith pales in importance to getting votes, right?
A 2014 Gallup poll found around 28 percent of Democrats call themselves pro-life. A 2011 Gallup poll found nearly 48 percent of Democrats who attend church on a weekly basis self-identify as pro-life (out of a sample size of 385). Pew found in 2017 that approximately 75 percent of Democrats believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. But numbers on legality don’t tell the full story.
There are plenty of people out there who believe that repealing Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey could create negative consequences for women, especially those who might seek illegal abortions. But lack of viable alternative to the current legal framework does not mean that they believe abortion is ethically or morally correct. More polling must be done on those people — the ones who feel a visceral disgust with the way we talk about aborting the innocent, but fear a world in which criminalization wreaks havoc on maternal health.
Too often, people on the pro-choice side act like there’s some sort of broad consensus in support of so-called abortion rights. They trot out a Quinnipac poll which claims 63 percent of respondents agree with Roe v. Wade. But, as colleagues here at The Federalist have pointed out, this oft-cited figure doesn’t truly indicate that there’s currently a strong pro-choice majority.
For starters, many respondents don’t really know much about the Roe decision, except that it deals with the legality of abortion. If they did know anything about it, they would realize that Roe isn’t really the relevant case nowadays. Instead, most legal quibbles are really over Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which created a new undue burden standard for judging abortion access and the constitutionality of various restrictions that seek to put an obstacle in the way of a woman seeking an abortion.
Many people, when asked about the legality of abortion, broadly support maintaining the status quo. That doesn’t mean they’re ethically in support of abortion, so much as that they haven’t seen good alternatives to the current legal framework offered. They’ve been understandably scared by coat hanger and back alley abortion imagery and offer their support for Roe because they can’t visualize what a pre- or post-Roe world really looks like.
Not to mention, when it comes to abortion, we too often argue about the fringes without realizing that a significant chunk of the populace are willing to compromise to some degree on abortion. About 70 percent of pro-lifers are okay with allowing abortion in situations where it might save the mother’s life, and nearly 80 percent of pro-choicers are okay with outlawing third trimester abortions.
This doesn’t mean we’re all the same or that we should water down our ideologies to appease the other side. It does mean we should recognize that the other side is not the monolithic, fully ideologically consistent group that we make them out to be. If this were the case, what would explain the fact that so many pro-choicers still feel a discomfort with ableist abortions, or people specifically choosing to abort children who have Down syndrome? It fundamentally doesn’t square with their broad support of anti-ableist rhetoric to then turn around and claim that children with disabilities are quite literally unworthy of living.
They have yet to resolve that inconsistency within their ranks. One thing that might help is introducing more Democrats of conscience into their parties, so they can sort out these complex dilemmas with their ideological kin, instead of just spouting disingenuous talking points spoon-fed to them by Planned Parenthood.
But that would be too welcoming and intellectually honest for the Missouri Democratic Party and might, in fact, draw them closer to the middle. Instead, they’ve chosen to double down on their reproductive rights jargon, filled with hollow catchphrases such as, “When women organize, women win.” They miss the fact that pseudo-female empowerment doesn’t confront the actual issue.
That is, whether it’s morally justifiable to take a human life, no questions asked, for a woman seeking to rid sex of consequences (if that sounds like an oxymoron, it’s because it is). This is the real question we’re grappling with, and people of faith have important insight on when human life begins and how much it’s worth protecting.
Democrats would be wise to make their party more big tent on an issue as important as abortion.