I’ll give a more thoroughly reported response later but here are my first quick takes on the Democratic Party’s new draft platform on abortion and its political implications
1) The Lack of Moral Language — The key linguistic debate has been whether to “reduce the number of abortions” or “reduce the need for abortions.” Pro-life folks favored the former. Pro-choice folks favored the latter. The pro-choice folks won. In fact, the 2004 platform said abortion “should be safe, legal and rare” – language that’s casts abortion reduction as morally preferable, something this platform does not.

2) Abortion Reduction — The draft platform includes – for the first time – language supporting policies specifically designed to reduce the need for abortions: “The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.” We can therefore see the outlines of a pro-active position that might woo pro-life Catholics and evangelicals. Democrats can now say, you can support the Republican party which issues grand moralistic pronouncements but doesn’t take enough practical steps to reduce the number of abortions or you can support the Democrats who do take those steps. It is an open question, however, whether Obama will go that far, since the platform clearly avoided using any moral language casting abortion as a morally inferior choice.
3) Conscience Clause — There is no “conscience clause” acknowledging and respecting the diversity of opinion within the party on abortion. Pro-life Democrats had hoped for that.
4) Greater Inclusion — Pro-life religious liberals were included in the process like they haven’t been before. They’re thrilled with their participation and feel that the platform moved in the right direction as a result. In any event, given the party’s ambivalent attitude in the past toward pro-life Democrats, they view the inclusion itself as a big deal.
5) Government Funding – By supporting the right to abortion “regardless of ability to pay,” the platform retains its support for federal government support for abortion through Medicaid, the health care program for low income people. Many centrist Democrats have taken the position that abortion should be legal but the government shouldn’t subsidize it. The pro-choice community won on this one.
6) This isn’t over — After listening to a conference call of pro-life progressives, it’s clear that some of them will continue to press for improved language before and during the convention — and that they are hoping that Obama himself will go further in his own language. Specifically, they’re looking to see if obama uses moral language that it’s better to have fewer abortions than not.
All in all, I’d say that this platform does NOT do what was necessary to win substantial numbers of Catholics or moderate evangelicals. However, in combination with a strong personal statement from Obama about the moral necessity of reducing abortion, the party could make real headway. All eyes now turn to Obama’s performance at Saddleback Church later this week.
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