Death of the Pro-Life Democrat?

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared in American Spectator.

With the swearing in of the 112th Congress, an already endangered species is nearing extinction in the Capitol Building: the pro-life Democrat.

That the Democrats took a thumping last November is obvious. In the House of Representatives, over 60 seats changed from Democrat to Republican.

Less-remarked upon, however, was the equally dramatic switch to pro-life legislators, which, not coincidentally, accompanied that Democrat-to-Republican shift. Marjorie Dannenfelser, director of the Susan B. Anthony List, which seeks to elect pro-life women to Congress, counts 38 switches from “pro-choice” to pro-life legislators, plus another 14 seats where “unreliable” pro-lifers were replaced with “reliable” pro-life votes. In all, 52 seats were “strengthened” in a more pro-life position.

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), longtime pro-life stalwart, celebrates that this January marks “the beginning of the arguably most pro-life House ever.” Smith calls it “another message to President Obama that the American people will not be fooled by the Obama administration’s accounting gimmicks and phony executive orders. They expect their elected officials to stand up for life without backing down.”

This is a reference to the “Bart Stupak Democrats,” who voted yes on the “Obama-care” healthcare bill that provides taxpayer funding of abortion. They convinced themselves that President Obama’s corresponding executive order will ban abortion funding. Most of those pro-life Democrats find themselves no longer in Congress. Some, like Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), were defeated in landslides.

Particularly telling, leadership of the House goes from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), a tectonic shift in the pro-life direction, from one lifelong Roman Catholic to another—but with only Boehner applying “social justice” (not to mention the Church’s teaching) to the unborn.

Likewise, the U.S. Senate includes notable pro-life gains. In Florida, Republican Marco Rubio registered a remarkable victory in a three-candidate race in November, trouncing a turncoat ex-Republican endorsed by Bill Clinton, the president who vetoed partial-birth abortion bans. In Arkansas, pro-life Republican John Boozman defeated incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln. In a major upset in Wisconsin, pro-life Republican Ron Johnson defeated Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold, a dependable vote for the abortion lobby. Other significant pro-life wins occurred in North Dakota, Indiana, and elsewhere. In Pennsylvania, pro-lifer Pat Toomey edged out Democrat Joe Sestak, who was atrocious on human-life issues.

In short, the Democratic Party, which was already heading down this path, now has preciously few pro-lifers in the House or Senate. We’re approaching the point where you can count them on two hands, potentially one hand.

Alas, I say this with regret. I honestly do. I’m a pro-life Republican, but I know that the parties, and what they stand for, change over time. I’m far more concerned with the lives of unborn babies than political lives of Republicans. I don’t support “pro-choice” Republicans; in fact, I’ve actively worked for their defeat. I’m an American deeply saddened by the Death Culture thrust upon this nation through the evil of Roe v. Wade in January 1973.

For a time, in the early years after Roe, it wasn’t completely clear where the two parties, Democrat and Republican, would align on the matter of unborn human life. It has taken time, but, ultimately, the progression has been steady toward the Republicans becoming the party of life. Importantly, there are exceptions to this, but, by and large, certainly in Congress, the vast majority of Republicans are pro-life while the vast majority of Democrats are not.

Consider a fascinating analysis of Roman Catholic members of Congress, done by the National Catholic Register and National Right to Life. Their church is adamantly against legal abortion. And yet, of those Catholics with a dismal 0 to 5 percent pro-life ranking, all are Democrats, whereas of those with a solid 95 to 100 percent pro-life ranking, all are Republicans. That’s a stunning religious-political shift.

Along this descent, there were Democrats who tried to stop the train-wreck. One was a governor in my home state of Pennsylvania, the late Bob Casey, who was distraught that his party, which prided itself as defender of the “little guy,” was turning its back on the most innocent among us: the unborn child. When Casey pleaded for a speaking spot at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the self-proclaimed apostles of “tolerance” and “diversity” refused him. Looking back, that was a telling moment.

It’s a sad development for the culture and the country. It further polarizes the abortion issue, more starkly along party lines. For pro-life Republicans in Congress, it’s a loss, as they need pro-life Democrats as precious allies. No one—Republicans included—should celebrate such a moral demise in a once great political party.