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Aborted language

Abortion | ABORTION: Does the Democratic platform read pro-lifers out of the party?

Issue: "Democrats are all smiles," Aug. 7, 2004

In the turbulent 1770s, journalist Samuel Adams and other fiery orators rallied patriots at Boston's Fanueil Hall, ultimately sparking the American Revolution. Last week, pro-life Democrats rallied on Fanueil's historic cobblestone plaza and called for a revolution in their own party.

"I'd like to be a pioneer!" Georgia Democratic congressional candidate Silvia Delamar told a crowd of about 200 on July 20. "If one woman in Congress would stand up and admit she's pro-life, other women would admit it, too. Right now, they're afraid of being excluded or kicked out of the party if they speak up!"

Despite Ms. Delamar's impassioned speech, Democratic convention delegates that same day adopted a party platform that drops big-tent abortion language and seems a step closer to excluding pro-life views altogether.

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The platform fracas goes back to 1992 when the DNC refused to allow pro-life Gov. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) to address delegates at the party's national convention in New York. The snub triggered a revolt by the party's pro-life wing, leading 1996 convention delegates in Chicago to approve an abortion-related "conscience clause": "The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion," the revised platform read. "We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party."

That language survived the 2000 convention. But this year, the 186-member DNC platform committee axed it, and in its place attacked Republicans' efforts to protect the unborn. "We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine" current abortion laws, the 2004 platform says. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said, "That statement puts pro-life Democrats in the Republican Party, and that's not where we want to be."

While the platform was still in draft phase, Ms. Day and DFLA chapter leaders in 32 states rattled cages at DNC headquarters. Surely new language that seemed to lump pro-life Democrats with the opposition party was an oversight, DFLA told party leaders. Might more inclusive language be restored to the platform? "We were told that the only way that would happen is if someone offered an amendment in Boston and it was approved," Ms. Day told WORLD.

That didn't happen. Instead, convention delegates approved the committee's less kind, less gentle version. That left pro-life Democrats feeling shut out-and let the party's mask of "inclusion" slip in the process.

WORLD reached DNC press secretary Tony Welch on his cell phone at the Boston convention to ask why the platform committee nixed the party's pro-life conscience clause. "I'm not going to be able to poll every member of the platform committee," Mr. Welch said testily over the convention's background roar. "We obviously believe you can be pro-life and a Democrat."

Ms. Day isn't so sure, particularly when it comes to Democratic leaders. Even though 43 percent of Democratic voters say that abortion "destroys human life and is manslaughter" (according to a January 2004 Zogby poll), none of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination this year was pro-life.

Meanwhile, the powerful abortion lobby is a major donor to Democratic politicians, with EMILY's List alone giving $4 million to pro-abortion Democrats in Congress so far this year. "There's a lot of money in the abortion business, and a lot of that money flows to the Democratic Party," said Brian Keaney, secretary of the Massachusetts DFLA chapter.

The DNC's latest move to more firmly embrace abortion-on-demand "shows how much control NARAL and Planned Parenthood have over [the Democratic political] process," Ms. Day said. "I think they're really driving the party right now."

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