The Dilemma of Pro-Life Democrats

Democrats for Life in America (DFLA) was founded in 1999 on the premise that approximately one-third of Democrats are pro-life; and it has been valiantly championing the pro-life cause in congressional and presidential elections since that time.  The pro-life Democrats include many who are against unrestricted elective abortions, and/or who favor exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother.

In spite of considerable opposition from fellow Democrats, they find their home in the Democratic Party on the basis of their belief that this is the party that offers the fullest support for women, not just in cases of difficult pregnancy decisions; and they believe the Democratic Party can be relied on to guarantee social “safety nets” for those who need them.  Also, there is the widespread belief that the Democratic Party is the party with the history of protecting civil rights (a mistaken belief which I discussed in a recent column).

The DFLA has a policy of never endorsing Republicans; however, they did refuse to endorse “pro-choice” John Kerry in the 2004 election against Bush. On their website, they state their comprehensive pro-life purpose:

Democrats for Life of America exists to foster respect for life, from the beginning of life to natural death. This includes, but is not limited to, opposition to abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. Democrats for Life of America is one of over 200 member organizations of Consistent Life: an international network for peace, justice and life.

Those readers who are familiar with Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” position on life issues during the 1990s will recognize a similarity of language in the above statement, which may not be coincidental.

In the 2010 Congressional elections the DFLA suffered considerable losses.  They lamented the fact that fourteen pro-life members of Congress either retired or were defeated by Republicans, thus contributing to the control of the House of Representatives by Republicans.

This year, prior to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC, the DFLA made persistent efforts to persuade party leaders to adopt in their platform a “big tent” approach, which they spelled out as follows:

We believe that we can reduce the number of abortions because we are united in our support for policies that assist families who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies.  We believe that women deserve to have a breadth of options available as they face pregnancy: including, among others, support and resources needed to handle the challenges of pregnancy, adoption, and parenthood; access to education, healthcare, childcare; and appropriate child support.  We envision a new day without financial or societal barriers to bringing a planned or unplanned pregnancy to term.

In spite of the mildness and reasonableness of this declaration, it was turned down by party leaders; and in fact the Democratic platform was crafted with even more adamant pro-abortion language than any previous platform.

As a result, the DFLA has commendably and consistently decided not to endorse Barak Obama for the election this coming November, but has ended up with the following rather non-committal position:

We do not endorse Republican candidates and we do not endorse candidates who take a public position to support abortion. Since neither of the candidates meet our criteria, we will not endorse a candidate in the 2012 Presidential Race.

One would presume that the logical conclusion of a card-carrying DFLA member, reading this recommendation of abstention, would be to not vote at all for president in November.  But the option and the recommendation remains: DFLA recommends that their members vote for a select number of declared pro-life Democratic candidates for Congress who are running this year, and who are endorsed by the DFLA. This list includes Bob Casey (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tim Kaine (VA), Joe Manchin (WV), Mark Critz (PA), Gary McDowell (MI), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Mike McIntyre (NC), Nick Rahall (WV), Mike Doyle (PA), Steve Pestka (MI), Charlie Wilson (OH), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Hayden Rogers (NC), Chris Henrichsen (WY), Brendan Mullen (IN), Dave Crooks (IN), and John Ewing (NE).

A Republican who is dissatisfied with a Republican Congressional candidate’s position on abortion or other issues might decide to make a point by voting for one of these Democrats—although political considerations like majorities in the House and Senate may complicate his or her decision.

A person reading the 2012 Platform of the Democratic Party, which supports unrestricted abortion rights, and who is familiar with the thinking of the current leadership of the Democrats, might conclude that a more appropriate title for the party would be “The Abortion Party.”

However, the fact that there are Democratic candidates who voluntarily affiliate with the Democrats for Life of America can be taken as a sign that change is still possible even among confirmed Democrats. Yet, as the number of pro-life Democratic candidates in many states gets smaller and smaller, or non-existent, a DFLA member may find that his only option is to discreetly vote Republican.

Howard Kainz


Howard Kainz is professor emeritus at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Natural Law: an Introduction and Reexamination (2004), The Philosophy of Human Nature (2008), and The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (2010).

  • givelifeachance2

    Ya know, this will no doubt not be “liked” very well, but the myth of the prolife Democrat is a well-worn cliche by now. The really relevant question is of the dilemma of prolife *Republicans*, given that their nominee explicitly rejects the platform, favors abortion for mother’s “health” (meaning in virtually any case), favors gay marriage in practice if not in words, brags about the test tube origin of his grandchildren, attends fundraisers from the morning-after pillmaker. He also sports an atrocious score on the statism scale, and is groomed by Kissinger and the Rockefeller coterie at the Council for Foreign Relations. That Catholics are feeling cornered into voting for Romney as an Obama alternative should not deflect our gaze from the principles we are violating in ignoring these negatives. When will we *ever* get to vote for someone God would approve of?

    • Tout

      GIVELIFE When will a politician keep saying that he supports pro-life, that he respects freedom of religion. Canada has a ‘Christian Heritage Party’. It seems to me, they must have belief and courage, daring to speak so clearly. I wonder how many persons dare to take such an open stand. Seems to me, they will bring ‘honesty’ in politics. I hope they will succeed.

    • rshapiro

      Just as soon as Jesus is on the ballot. Until then, it will always be a choice of the lesser of two evils. Grow up.

      • givelifeachance2

        “The same forces that put Obama in place have now engineered a choice in the 2012 election intended to force voters to side either with a socialist Democrat who wants to impose socialism on the nation or a socialist Republican who has already imposed socialism on his home state of Massachusetts. To say that voters who refuse to support either are somehow responsible for electing one or the other is like saying that people who refuse to submit to the demands of terrorists are somehow responsible for killing the people the terrorists subsequently murder. The guarantee of successful terrorism that results from that perverse logic places everyone’s life in greater danger.” Alan Keyes

        One way or another, we’re headed for the gulag, bro. Make darned sure your conscience is clear voting in another abortocrat like Romney.

        • rshapiro

          Mitt Romney “imposed socialism” on Massachusetts? I always knew Alan Keyes was a nut, but that’s a bit much even for him. Have you never heard of Ted Kennedy? “Father” Robert Drinan? Massachusetts was a left-wing state long before Romney got there. Mitt Romney will appoint conservative justices in the Alito/Roberts mold who will return the abortion issue to the states where it belongs. If you are not going to vote for him because he does not meet your own exalted standards, you (and Alan Keyes) will have to answer for what follows.

          • givelifeachance2

            Yes… google “mitt romney signing romneycare video fanueil hall” to see mitt preening right along with Teddy Kennedy about his socialized medicine lockdown in Massachusetts. Ask the parents in “Mass Resistance” what a Marxist dictocrat police state Mass. became when Romney ushered in when he ordered gay marriage to be implemented. Inquire about the 50 dollar copay abortions. In fact, google “prolife profiles mitt romney” to get a huge whiff of the real Romney.

          • Adam_Baum

            I support Romney, but harbor no delusions. He isn’t Ronald Reagan.

          • Sinner

            Absolutely no one knows what Romney would do. Maybe not even Romney

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  • hombre111

    Good thoughtful article. I am a pro-life Democrat and so are most of my large circle of friends. It is painful to see the Democrats adopt pro-choice. But I remain a Democrat because I firmly believe that the Democrats support the much wider issue of social justice and an adequate safety net.
    As for the history of the Democrat Party. Almost from the beginning, it was the party of states rights, a synonym for the right to have slaves. But it also promoted the ideal of the small independent farmer standing up against government and the big guys. The Whigs and then the Republicans stood for a strong federal government, expansion, industry, etc..
    The Republicans, of course, ended slavery during the Civil War. The South then became rabidly Democrat, its politicians creating legal structures that amounted to a new kind of slavery for black people that was often more brutal than before. This system lasted unchallenged until the middle of the last century. But in the 1940’s, urban liberals inside the Democrat Party began to push social justice. Inevitably, the party had to face states rights and the dilemma of blacks in the South. When Linden Johnson signed the Civil Rights act, he famously said, “There goes the South for the next generations.”
    And he was right. Nixon followed his “Southern Strategy” and the South, furious at the Democrats, became Republican. But somehow along the way, the values of the two parties switched. Now it was the Republicans who fostered states rights with its implicit racism in the South. Now it was the Republicans who adopted the individualism of the rural Democrats with their suspicion of government. It was the Republicans who adopted the narrow reactionary Biblical fundamentalism of Southern Religion. But the Republicans did maintain their commitment to strong economic growth and expansion. This created two wings in the Republican party.
    And so, today, the Democrats and the Republicans both define themselves in ways that the Democrats and Republicans of Lincoln’s day would not recognize.

    • givelifeachance2

      This is what I mean…that there are abortocrats in the Republican party gives Catholic democrats comfort that they’re not the only ones.

      The Republican platform means nothing when the nominee completely rejects it.

      For your info, hombre111, Democrats have always been the KKK party, and Nixon was NOT conservative or prolife, he was a Rockefeller bought and paid for communist collaborationist, abortocrat who was faking being a conservative. He was simply the right-handed sock puppet who was used to the false narrative that the liberals tell like a bedtime story.

      • hombre111

        You are right: the KKK was born and raised in the Democrat Party. But KKK members vote Republican today. As for Nixon, I honestly think he came an inch short of being one of the great ones. If only his paranoia and fear of opposition had not led to Watergate….

    • Adam_Baum

      You are living proof that the Democrat party has been completely overtaken by the socialist left. Every post you make favors more, and more intrusive government, more redistribution and centralization, of course peppered with noxious nostrums.

      I am curious. You claim to be a priest. Priests I know don’t seem to have time to be posting on internet sites. How is it, with your concern for the poor, you aren’t attending to their spiritual poverty. Priests I know have very little free time and devote themselves to things like visiting the sick and dying.

      Funny thing about socialists-they are obsessed with material wealth.

      • hombre111

        I am an old retired guy with 48 years of priesthood under his belt. Posting on Crisis has become part of my ministry. I say what I say because I am a Catholic who has taken into his heart the social teaching of his Church, This is contained in a fat volume called the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, printed by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Unlike some, I have not used my “prudential judgment” to explain it all away into oblivion.
        I guess my basic image is the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.” So, I look around. .,01% of people owning a monstrous chunk of American wealth while millions languish in poverty does not strike me as the Kingdom of God in our midst. And I do not imagine that, when we get to heaven, we will find this scene repeated. Instead, Jesus described heaven as a banquet where rich and poor are gathered together as equals.
        I am amazed how rich Christians continue to ignore Jesus’ words. “Woe to you rich! You have HAD your reward.” Or the wonderful story of the loaded down camel trying to get through the narrow gate called the eye of the needle. In order to get through, they will have to take everything off the camel. And so we go to heaven. But how many die, clinging to everything they have owned?

        • Adam_Baum

          Every time I read your bilious screeds against “the rich”, (assuming you aren’t lying about being a priest (you’ll have top pardon my skepticism, I’m a bit of an empiricist), I am glad that young men with better balanced outlooks are replacing the generation that presided over the church closings and empty pews-yes, I mean yours.

          The fact is, you have no “prudential judgment” to offer. You are absolutely obsessed with material wealth (and I suspect that when Christ warned about wealth, he meant far more than shekels) but I see no evidence of any understanding of economics and an unbridled faith in government, which is of course a violation of the Commandment not to have strange gods before the Almighty.

          You complain that millions “languish” in poverty, without the slightest fraction of indignity for unwed motherhood and the other social pathologies that result in vast amounts of intractable economic and poverty that your reserve for spurious and meaningless macroeconomic statistics.

          If the rich’s souls are in eternal peril, simply because they are rich, then instead of driving them away with your hateful drivel, you should be tending to their souls. How about getting unwed mothers to encourage other girls to get a ring before a baby-or do you think God is now fine with fornication now?

          But no, it’s so much easier to curse the darkness than actually light a candle. To me, the greatest wealth in the world is the ability to forgive sins. I wonder if the great confessors, such as Louis De Montefort, St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio would have have penned malevolent missives on the internet and called it “ministry”. I wonder what God will say to those who don’t spend their time dispensing, or at least offering, his forgiveness.

          A final thought. You always remind me that heresy isn’t the absence of truth, it’s it’s exaggeration-in your case to monstrous and distorted proportions. Cursing and condemning the rich may indulge your fantasies-but it does NOTHING to help the poor.

          • hombre111

            As usual, Adam, you change the subject. Let’s stick to Jesus’ thoughts about the rich. There you are, using your prudential judgment until all Jesus is offering is embarassing advice. As for the young generation taking over, that began seven years after the Council under Pope John Paul II. My generation watched in dismay as the Council began to grind abruptly to a halt. Pope John Paul then ruled for many years,followed by Pope Benedict. Both popes appointed only conservative bishops. Before Pope JPII died, most of the bishops at Vatican II were gone. My bishop was one of the last. He resigned in 1990.
            This means that your brand of Catholicism has been the majority in charge for at least twenty-five years. When I look at my diocese, I see that I was one of the last Vatican II priests. For the ones behind me, Vatican II was only a rumor. Like somebody who missed the wonderful display of a comet, they have no understanding of the glory.
            Anyway, as I told a young priest who glories in his tyranny, it is long past time to stop blaming the old priests of Vatilcan II. You have been in charge since Pope John Paul II. The old pope could stir up the youth, but they were still promiscuous the day after they crowded around him, and they still questioned their faith. What is wrong with the Church is on him, and on you. Now, I am only an observer. Good luck, lad.

            • Adam_Baum

              “Let’s stick to Jesus’ thoughts about the rich.”

              Ok, lets. But lets not forget, he specifically declined to address taxes, but ever increased taxes is something you on the left assume is the path to heaven on earth.

              Jesus had a lot to say about inordinate attachment to wealth -but he NEVER said that you get to determine how much is to much, to become indignant and abusive or to cloak simple envy in righteous indignation. If a person is a material idolator, they are sinners needed counsel and forgiveness, not contempt,

              He also had things to say about a great many sins, but you only see one. Last I checked, here were seven cardinal sins, not one.

              You decry the Pope for not suppressing concupiscence? Your generation tip-toed around the sexual revolution and you expect him to put the genie back in the bottle in one visit? That’s an awful tall order. Even Jesus couldn’t stop Peter from denying him three times or prevent Judas from betraying him.

              Yet as quickly as you rebel against the pope-and show the sulfurous imprimatur of your disordered obsession-You don’t want any blame. Well, too d*mn bad. The ruin didn’t occur in the 1980’s-the rot was had begun in the 1960’s-
              your time.

              I am so glad we are done with the Bernardins, Hunthausens and Weaklands – those who thought the SVC was an opportunity to dispense with two thousand years and to reauthor doctrine in their image. Of course we now now Weakland was a compromised wolf in sheep’s clothing.

              Nota Bene: The present administration is engaging in soft suppression of the Church-future ones will be more forceful. You’ll clap like a seal every time the ringmaster throws you the mackerel of class warfare. The Catholic Left. It’s all left and not at all Catholic.

              • hombre111

                Good night, Adam. Take a laxative and feel better lin the morning.

                • Adam_Baum

                  You’ve promoted that effect with every post. Can I suggest that you obtain medication as well?

                  By the way, count me as officially convinced that your claims of ordination are fraudulent.

          • Kenneth

            Here is a curious post ( from the supposed priest. If he is a priest, then he is certainly by his own words in deliberate dissent and unfaithful to Christ. I say this as a 29-year old unemployed with Multiple Sclerosis. I am one of these of the younger generation who are choosing to put our faith in Christ rather than in Democrat nor Republican, conservative nor liberal camps. I trust Jesus, and as such I accept the full teaching of His Church (pre-, Vatican 2, and post-) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As such I will be hated by the likes of Hombre111. Good riddance to these priests who have guided countless souls in the direction of hell over the last 50 years.

            “I am a social justice Catholic, which I think is the large issue. I
            think abortion comes under the heading of social justice as an attack on
            the weakest of us all. As for the Church’s teaching on contraception, I
            think it is wrong-headed, the refusal of the hierarchy to admit that
            Pope Paul’s Humanae Vitae was shooting at the enemy where he used to be.
            The hierarchy just keeps plugging along, unable to admit that the
            “doctrine” has been soundly rejected by Catholic married couples, and
            will never be accepted. As for the solid support of the bishops for the
            “doctrine,” only priests who support the doctrine are ever chosen to be a
            bishop. How can you claim unanimity when the pope has systematically
            excluded any member of the thoughtful opposition”

  • I wouldn’t say they are recommending no vote for President. They are simply saying there’s no one they can endorse, so each pro-life Democrat will have to make their own decision. That might be to vote for Obama, Romney, or a third party or independent candidate, or to not vote for the office at all. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of their Board members who are part of the Obama campaign organization.

    In their desperation to show there are pro-life Democratic candidates, they have made some very questionable endorsements. For example, Tim Kaine has been touting his “pro-choice” views in his advertising and on his Web site. When he first ran for Governor, he claimed to be pro-life but clearly he has switched sides since.

    The conclusion that the paucity of pro-life Democratic candidates means DFLA members will have to vote discreetly Republican is highly questionable. Despite the efforts of the establishment to ram their two parties down America’s throats, there is no basis for a two-party system in the Constitution and it remains legal for third party and independent candidates to run (despite state laws to make it difficult to get on the ballot and the corporate media largely refusing to cover other than the 2 establishment parties). DFLA members could vote their values rather than for one of the parties which has led our country into such a bad situation.

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  • Mark

    It’s pathetic that some Catholics play dumb re: the fact that “their Party” celebrates baby killing, promotes sodomy and is bankrupting their children’s generation — and it is completely disingenuous when these clueless blowhards pontificate that those “little issues” are offset by the fact that Democrats “care about the poor”

    Democrats care about the poor the way an abusive husband cares about the bruises on his battered wife’s face.

  • publiusnj

    I agree with givelifeachance and disagree with hombre. With all due respect, Democrats for Life in America sounds “kinda like” the Constitutional Church in Revolutionary France or the “Patriotic Church” in present day China. A way to pay lip service to religion while falling into line with the diktats of an aggressively anti-Christian power. I just wrote a comment on another article (“Voting According to Catholic Principles, not Partisan Politics”) that makes the point that we should NEVER vote Democrat because the Democrat Party is THE Abortion Party (as well as the euthanasia party, the gay marriage party, the embryonic stem cell research party” and even the “shove payment for birth control down the throat of the Catholic Church party”).
    Romney is certainly not perfect, but Obama is far worse on life issues as well as on most other social issues. Two examples: Obama and his henchperson Sebelius are waging war on the Church’s Conscience rights and Obama would even support the killing of babies born alive after the abortionist tried but failed to kill the baby in a mother’s womb.

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