Make Room for Pro-Life Democrats

Democrats think all pro-life voters are conservative. But there are millions of votes at stake in this liberal miscalculation.

BY: Jim Wallis


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But if the Democrats were really smart they would do something more. And indeed, this is what candidate John Kerry should do. The Democrats could affirm that they are still the pro-choice party, but then also say what most Americans believe: that the abortion rate in America is much too high for a good, healthy society that respects both women and children. They could make a serious public commitment to actually do something about significantly reducing the abortion rate. Abortion is historically used as a symbolic issue in campaigns, and then forgotten when the election is over. Republicans win elections on the basis of their anti-abortion position, and then proceed to ignore the issue (and the nation's abortion rate, highest in the industrial world) by doing nothing to reduce the number of abortions.

Democrats could vow to change that by uniting both pro-choice and pro-life constituencies around goals that could become the basis for some new common ground, i.e. really targeting the problems of teen pregnancy and adoption reform-so critical to reducing abortion-while offering real support and meaningful alternatives for women at greater risk for unwanted pregnancies, especially low-income women.

John Kerry, while reasserting his pro-choice stance, could also credibly assert his Catholic faith as a motivator to save unborn lives by dramatically reducing the abortion rate. Given the bitter partisan division on the issue of abortion, it may be that the Democrats are the only ones who could initiate a common project to make abortion truly "rare" in America.

But beneath the strong convictions felt by many Christians on abortion is something deeper than politics. The most thoughtful ones speak of "a consistent ethic of life" that derives from the heart of Catholic social teaching. It was Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernadin who coined the phrase "a seamless garment of life" which clearly linked the "life issues" of abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, nuclear weapons, poverty, and racism all as critical components. The Catholic bishops themselves teach against single-issue voting that focuses on only one concern, such as abortion, to the neglect of all the rest.

The tragedy is, in America today one can't vote for a consistent ethic of life. Republicans stress some life issues, Democrats others, while both violate the seamless garment of life on several vital matters. But the consistent life ethic still serves as an invaluable plumb line by which to evaluate all political candidates and parties.

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