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David Brody

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Dem Party Platform's New Abortion Language

August 11, 2008

If it is ratified in Denver, the Democratic Party is going to add and change some abortion language in their platform as an attempt to bring more moderate Evangelicals and pro-life Catholics into the party.

Here is the new proposed language:   

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also 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.

Compare that to what is currently in the Democratic Party platform:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

The Brody File is told that people like Pastor Joel Hunter, (registered Republican) Jim Wallis, (President of Sojourners) Pastor Tony Campolo and conservative Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec all helped in the drafting of this new language. The Obama campaign has obviously been involved quite a bit too.

Look nobody is saying here that the Democrats have suddenly become the pro-life party. Far from it. This language is not intended to bring about a change in heart for conservative Evangelicals. But what about those who may relate to the Democratic Party on quite a few issues but have a hard time getting past the abortion issue? This new language could open up the door for some pro-lifers to at least give the Democratic Party a shot. Any movement that waters down the stringent abortion language from the past is significant. However, words are words. The proof is in the pudding. In other words, if a parental notification bill came to President Obama’s desk, would he sign it? If a fetal pain bill came to his desk would he sign it? In other words, the Democratic Party will get further with pro-life voters if they actually embrace some middle of the road abortion related bills. After all, there is a coherent argument to be made that parental notification laws help ‘reduce abortions”.

Let me leave you with the words of Douglas Kmiec (Obama supporter but a conservative Catholic) who wrote about this new development on the abortion language. Part of it is below:

Yes, there is the reaffirmation of Roe, but it is now matched with a full-throated call for efforts to address the irresponsibility of kids having kids, through appropriate educational efforts emphasizing the maturity and responsibility that must accompany sexual intimacy.

The most important Obama-inspired addition to the platform is the explicit call for greater respect for prenatal assistance, paid maternity leave, and if a woman is unable to raise her child, a sensitively structured and caring adoption system. To have the Democrats in the "strongly support" column for these measures in favor of life should not go unnoticed.

That still leaves the Democratic Party Platform well short of where honoring all life needs to be from a Catholic perspective, but it moves the ball considerably toward the side that favors life from the moment of conception.

Party platform language is seldom inspiring; indeed, the language proposed for the Democratic platform lacks the rhetorical depth of Senator Obama's own statements discouraging abortion and recognizing its moral dilemmas, and it certainly lacks the Senator's law teacher's grasp of how the mental health exception has left the law unthinkingly with abortion on demand.

But the purpose of party platforms are to cobble together lists of tangible steps to launch campaign rhetoric toward legislative achievement. In this, the Democratic platform language on abortion takes several notable steps toward specific, constructive ways to honor human life.

Catholics will be the first to say -- more is needed. It is. But Catholics ought also be the first to observe that insofar as Obama leaves the present law giving the potential mother the ultimate choice, he has successfully persuaded his party to commit to conditions that will make it more, not less, likely that the choice will be in favor of life.

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