Democrats for Life of America (DFLA)
"I don't believe in abortion on demand. The day we can solve the
world's population problem, the problem of browns in Central America, the
problems of blacks in the ghetto, by aborting them, that's unacceptable to
"How about the kids in mental hospitals? They're parasites on the environment. How about the old people in the institutions? They're cluttering up the landscape. Do you want to exterminate them, too?"
-Senator Ted Kennedy, 1970 Campaign for Senate
(taken from Kristen Day's 2006 book, Pro-Life Democrats.)
Kennedy's position wasn't always in line with abortion advocacy groups, one of many formerly pro-life Democrats who changed with the political winds as the party moved from one influenced by pro-life southern Democrats and pro-life Catholics to one dominated by the abortion-rights feminist groups like NARAL and Emily's List.
Kennedy displayed an eloquent pro-life position in 1971, prior to Roe v. Wade, when he wrote a letter to Catholic League member Tom Dennelly.
“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life.
"Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized—the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old," he wrote.
“On the question of the individual’s freedom of choice there are easily available birth control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire," he added.
“When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception," he concluded.
Other prominent pro-life Democrats who eventually abandoned the courage of their convictions include former president Bill Clinton, Dick Durbin, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, and "common ground" congressman Tim Ryan.
In an article appearing in the September 1980 issue of The Progressive entitled, “Abortion: The Left Has Betrayed the Sanctity of Life,” Mary Meehan wrote:
“If much of the leadership of the pro-life movement is right-wing, that is due largely to the default of the left.
"We people who marched against the war and now march against abortion would like to see leaders of the left speaking out on behalf of the unborn.
"But we see only a few, such as Dick Gregory, Mark Hatfield, Richard Neuhaus, Mary Rose Oakar. Most of the others either avoid the issue or support abortion.
“We are dismayed by their inconsistency. And we are not impressed by arguments that we should work and vote for them because they are good on such issues as food stamps and medical care...
“It is out of character for the left to neglect the weak and the helpless. The traditional mark of the left has been its protection of the underdog, the weak, and the poor.
"The unborn child is the most helpless form of humanity, even more in need of protection than the poor tenant farmer or the mental patient or the boat people on the high seas.
"The basic instinct of the left is to aid those who cannot aid themselves—and that instinct is absolutely sound. It is what keeps the human proposition going.”
Meehan stated elsewhere:
“Writer and activist Jay Sykes, who led Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 antiwar campaign in Wisconsin and later served as head of the state’s American Civil Liberties Union, wrote a ‘Farewell to Liberalism’ several years ago.
"Sykes cited several areas of disagreement and disillusionment, then added, ‘It is on the abortion issue that the moral bankruptcy of contemporary liberalism is most clearly exposed.’ He said that liberals’ arguments in support of abortion ‘could, without much refinement, be used to justify the legalization of infanticide.’”
In her article, “Abortion and the Left” which originally appeared in Religious Socialism (Spring, 1981), Juli Loesch, founder of Pro-Lifers for Survival (an antinuclear group) described the response to Mary Meehan’s article in The Progressive:
“The left...is profoundly divided on abortion...in October 1980, Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace organization that includes feminists and socialists, approved an anti-abortion resolution at its national assembly by virtually unanimous vote.
“Weeks later, Sojourners, a Christian peace/justice magazine, featured Daniel Berrigan, Shelley Douglass, Jesse Jackson and others arguing for opposition to abortion integrated with a more radical commitment to non-violent feminism and human dignity.
“Possibly abortion never was a Left/Right issue,” concluded Loesch. “Soon after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision one of the most progressive Senate Democrats, Harold Hughes, joined one of the most progressive Republicans, Mark Hatfield, in co-sponsoring a Human Life Amendment (HLA).
"Both were opponents of the Vietnam War. Both opposed abortion because of, not despite, their other political views...Michael Harrington once called pro-life one of the only true grassroots movements to emerge from the ‘70s.”
“I have always thought it peculiar how the liberal and conservative philosophies have lined up on the abortion issue,” observed Rosemary Bottcher in her article “How Do Pro-Choicers ‘Fool’ Themselves?” which originally appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.
“It seemed to me that liberals traditionally have cared about others and about human rights, while conservatives have cared about themselves and property rights. Therefore, one would expect liberals to be defending the unborn and conservatives to be encouraging their destruction.”
Rosemary Bottcher criticized the American Left for its failure to take a stand against abortion:
“The same people who wax hysterical at the thought of executing, after countless appeals, a criminal convicted of some revolting crime would have insisted on his mother’s unconditional right to have him killed while he was still innocent.
“The same people who organized a boycott of the Nestle Company for its marketing of infant formula in underdeveloped lands would have approved of the killing of those exploited infants only a few months before.
“The same people who talk incessantly of human rights are willing to deny the most helpless and vulnerable of all human beings the most important right of all.
“Apparently these people do not understand the difference between contraception and abortion,” concluded Bottcher.
“Their arguments defending abortion would be perfectly reasonable if they were talking about contraception. When they insist upon ‘reproductive freedom’ and ‘motherhood by choice’ they forget that ‘pregnant’ means ‘being with child.’ A pregnant woman has already reproduced; she is already a mother.”
At a speech before the National Right to Life Convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on July 15, 1982, Reverend Richard John Neuhaus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said:
“I have a confession to make. I am a liberal. More than that. I am a Democrat...I know that among some pro-life advocates liberalism is almost a dirty word. I know it and I regret it. I know that among others there has been a determined effort to portray the pro-life movement as anti-liberal and, indeed, as reactionary. I know it and I regret it.
“We are today engaged in a great contest over the meaning of liberalism, over the meaning of liberal democracy, indeed over the meaning of America...Will it be an America that is inclusive, embracing the stranger and giving refuge to the homeless?...Will it be a caring America, nurturing the helpless and protecting the vulnerable?
“...The mark of a humane and progressive society is an ever more expansive definition of the community for which we accept responsibility..."The pro-life movement is one with the movement for the emancipation of slaves. This is the continuation of the civil rights movement, for you are the champions of the most elementary civil, indeed human right—simply the right to be.
“There is another and authentically liberal vision of an America that is hospitable to the stranger, holding out arms of welcome to those who would share the freedom and opportunity we cherish. ‘Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door.’
“The unborn child is the ultimate immigrant...The analogy between the unborn and the immigrant may seem strained. I fear, however, that it is painfully to the point.”
According to Dr. And Mrs. J.C. Willke’s 1988 Handbook on Abortion, a poll was conducted at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, CA, asking: “Should there be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing abortion?” It was found that only nine percent of all delegates to the Convention supported such an Amendment, even though it was supported by 46 percent of all Democrats nationwide.
In an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Are Black Leaders Listening to Black America?”, J. Perkins wrote:
“Black leaders react in traditional, knee-jerk liberal fashion to issues across the board, even though, in general, black Americans are decidedly conservative on a number of issues. The Black Caucus, for example, advocates a ‘right’ to abort, whereas 62% of blacks oppose abortion (National Opinion Research Center, 1984).”
According to Mary Meehan, “...abortion is a civil rights issue. Dick Gregory and many other blacks view abortion as a type of genocide.” For every white baby killed by abortion, for example, two minority children die.
Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) insisted, “The methods used to take human lives, such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc., amount to genocide. I believe that legal abortion is legal murder.”
According to Hamer, “These are still our children. And we still love these children. And after these babies are born we are not going to disband these children from their families, because these are other lives, they are...and I think these children have a right to live. And I think these mothers have a right to support them in a decent way.”
A pamphlet distributed by Milwaukee SOUL (Save Our Unwanted Lives) points out that under current U.S. law, corporations are considered legal persons, while humans in prenatal development are denied this moral status.
"The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
--Hubert H. Humphrey
Fifty-nine percent of Democrats favored a ban on partial-birth abortion. (Gallup Poll, November 1, 2000)
Eighty-nine percent of Americans favored informed consent for women seeking abortions. (Gallup Poll, 2002)
Sixty-seven percent of Democrats would outlaw some or all abortions. (Gallup Poll, May 5-7, 2003)
Forty-three percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that abortion"destroys a human life and is manslaughter." (Zogby Poll, December 2004)
Seventy percent of high school senior females say they would not consider abortion if they became pregnant while in high school. (Hamilton College/Zogby Poll, January 2008)
Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe abortion should have stricter limitations. (CBS News Poll, January 2008)
Twenty-nine percent of Democratic Convention delegates disagreed with the statement, "Abortion should be generally available to those who want it rather than under stricter limits or not permitted." However, 52 percent of Democratic voters as a whole disagreed. This large discrepancy between party leadership and membership indicates a serious problem that Democrats For Life of America wants to rectify.
During the 2008 campaign, Reverend Jim Wallis (of Sojourners) advised Barack Obama to support a plank in the Democratic Party Platform that would aim to reduce abortions by focusing on supporting low income women and making adoption easier. (This is the 95-10 Initiative, advanced by pro-life Democrats in Congress.) Reverend Tony Campolo served on the Platform Committee and has issued a strong statement in support of a pro-life position.
A "conscience clause" which appeared in the 2000 Democratic Platform (but not in 2004) acknowledges that there are pro-life people in our Party and we respect their views. It reads as follows:
"We respect the conscience of each American and recognize that members of our Party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, like abortion and the death penalty. We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues."
Kristen Day of Democrats For Life recently said, "Roughly a third of the Democratic Party is pro-life. And while many do not call themselves liberal, they share the values which seem to identify with liberalism, particularly a commitment to helping the vulnerable and providing a social safety net."
Democrats For Life of America, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004 (202) - 220 - 3066