In another recent blow to the Democratic Party’s overall opposition to pro life stances, California Governor Jerry Brown stated that pro life constituents should be welcome in the Democratic Party.
In an interview Sunday, August 6, with NBC’s “Meet the Press” the California Governor (who is himself a former Jesuit novice) said, “I’d say, look, even on the abortion issue, it wasn’t very long ago that a number of Catholic Democrats were opposed to abortion,” Mr. Brown said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So the fact that somebody believes today what most people believed 50 years ago should not be the basis for their exclusion.”
Mr. Brown said that the Democratic base is “shifting” and includes environmentalists, gun owners, “pro-choice people,” and religious fundamentalists—”not very many, but they’re there.”
“In America, we’re not ideological. We’re not like a Marxist party in 1910,” Mr. Brown said. “We are big tent by the very definition.”
The Governor’s statements follow a string of heatedly contested opinions following Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election. Since that time Democrats have debated and over whether pro lifers should be welcomed into the Party in order to have more broad representation to better win elections. Pro life Democrats represent roughly 23-24% of the Democratic base.
In April of 2017 Tom Perez, then DNC Chairman, drew a proverbial “line in the sand” when he infamously stated that “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America,called Perez’s comments “stunning.” According to Catholic News Agency:
Perez made the abortion issue “non-negotiable” for Democrats, Day continued, and was “strong-arming” party members “to step away from their conscience and not support the pro-life position anymore.”
Not soon after this House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi countered this position, saying on MSNBC that “ff course” Democrats can be pro-life. According to Catholic News Agency:
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin backed Perez’s statements. According to the Daily Caller, Durbin stated:
“I am committed to women’s rights under the law, reproductive rights certainly, and our party is [committed],” Durbin said in an appearance on CNN. “We’ve made that part of our platform and position for a long, long time. I know within the ranks of the Democratic Party there are those who see that differently on a personal basis, but when it comes to the policy position, I think we need to be clear and unequivocal.”
Abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL supported Perez’s comments. “Throwing weight behind anti-choice candidates is bad politics that will lead to worse policy,” said Mitchell Stille, who oversees campaigns for NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to The Hill, “The idea that jettisoning this issue wins elections for Democrats is folly contradicted by all available data.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to Perez’s comments saying that the party is “strongly pro-choice,” but remains a “big-tent party.”
The Democratic Party is extremely divided on this issue of abortion. The Atlantic reports:
“I couldn’t disagree more with what Tom Perez said, I think it’s not correct that our party should have litmus tests about who wants to join our party,” Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard and represents a state Donald Trump won, said in an interview. “We may disagree on various issues, and I just don’t think we should say ever anyone is not welcome in our party based on one of those issues.”
“What Mr. Perez said makes no sense to me. This is a deeply personal issue, and we should be about respecting one another,” Indiana Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly, who identifies as pro-life and has a 60 percent Planned Parenthood rating, said in an interview.
“I don’t know why we would want to start walking away from folks, like myself, who have a personal conviction on the pro-life issue,” Donnelly said. “We ought to be able to include everyone, as opposed to saying ‘no, we don’t want these folks, even though they fight with us on jobs, even though they fight with us for economic rights, even though they fight with us on healthcare.’ It just seems to me to be very, very short-sighted.”