Progressive Revival

Not according to this piece today on The New Republic site about the Dems platform battle over abortion language, and the efforts of Democrats for Life, a small organization (need it be said?) founded in 1999 with chapters in over 40 states. It is led by Kristen Day. The piece is called “Life Support? Inside the battle over abortion’s place in the Democratic platform.”:

[A]s it makes gains in more conservative districts, the Democratic Party is increasingly welcoming of pro-life candidates. Two of its most recent electoral successes-special election victories by Travis Childers in Mississippi and Don Cazayoux in Louisiana-were pro-life campaigns. And in the last few years, a flurry of Democratic-sponsored abortion reduction measures have been proposed in Congress, such as the “Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act” and the “Pregnant Women Support Act.”

But when it comes to the platform, pro-life Democrats face strong resistance from other corners of the party. “These kind of efforts are perennial,” says Ramona Oliver, communications director for Emily’s List. “They’re based on the assumption that Democrats’ position isn’t in the mainstream, and that’s just wrong. They’ve not succeeded in curtailing Democrats’ principles, and I don’t think they will in the future.”

Kavanaugh.gifAccording to the Jesuit ethicist John F. Kavanaugh, writing in the latest issue of America magazine, staying that course wouldn’t be too smart–and I’d agree. Kavanaugh writes an open letter to Obama asking him to throw a bone–with some meat on it–to pro-lifers who would like nothing better than to vote Democratic. He has three specific suggestions:

1. Support the Rev. Jim Wallis’s “abortion-reduction agenda,” with its economic support for pregnant women and greater access to adoption as part of the Democratic platform.

2. If you are interested in diversity and mutual respect, give a place at the Democratic convention for Democrats for Life to show you are unafraid of difference and debate.

3. Engage the arguments and evidence offered in opposition to second- and third-trimester abortions. You may find that the position of most American men and women is quite different from Naral’s. The earlier stages of embryonic and fetal development are more contested. But even your Republican opponent supports embryonic stem cell research. Ask him, and all the Catholics who will vote for him, how this fits into their professed commitments.

Perhaps you owe some courageous people like Douglas Kmiec a bit of reciprocation. Kmiec, a pro-life Catholic law professor who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, announced his support of you because of your approach to war, poverty and immigration. Because of this stand, he has been denied Communion at least once. Are you willing to risk excommunication from the church of Naral for a principled position on abortion?

Maybe they will call you that terrible name “flip-flopper.” But remember this: anyone who refuses to change a judgment in the face of irrefutable data is either a fool or a toady. And you, clearly, are neither. As I see you move more and more to the middle in matters of the economy and the war in Afghanistan, I wait. Will you move a bit to the middle on this matter of abortion?

A vociferous cadre in the Democratic Party has for too long wielded a dogmatic veto over any discussion of limiting abortions. With your commitment to reasoned, evidence-based and respectful discourse, are you able to challenge your party to welcome pro-life Catholics into its supposed big tent?

Food for thought for the weekend.

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