“The party does not believe in a litmus test,” Xochitl Hinojosa, a DNC spokeswoman, said in response to a request for comment. “Our role is to support state parties and candidates up and down the ballot and that’s exactly what we did when we invested in the state party in Nebraska as well as Mello’s campaign.” An aide to Perez told The Atlantic last month the DNC Chair never said he doesn’t support pro-life candidates.
Democratic leaders in Congress, meanwhile, have argued even more explicitly that there is space within the party for pro-life voters and candidates.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said last month that “of course” Democrats can be pro-life, while Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats are a “big-tent party.” Pelosi later told The Washington Post that Democrats are “not a rubber-stamp party,” adding that there are people in her “family, extended family, [who] are not-pro choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party?” Pelosi and Schumer both have 100 percent ratings from Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard.
Appeals from prominent Democrats to the idea that the party is a “big tent,” however, and news that Perez is expected to meet with pro-life Democrats have frustrated some pro-choice activists who fear that Democratic leaders are signaling that support for access to abortion is negotiable, despite the party platform.
“It’s incredibly discouraging to hear what sounds like equivocating on this issue,” said Erin Matson, a reproductive rights advocate based in Virginia. “That’s what it looks like when Democrats, in Congress or at the DNC, indicate a willingness to support, or set aside time to meet with, anyone who doesn’t believe that women’s reproductive rights are fundamental human rights.” Matson added that the DNC should be transparent about the details of Perez’s outreach to pro-life Democrats, including who participates in any conversations with the chair, and what is discussed.
NARAL and Planned Parenthood declined to comment for this story.
For now, the DNC faces pressure to act as a sort of ideological compass for Democrats and show that it the party is learning from past mistakes. Part of the challenge in pulling that off, however, is that there remains widespread disagreement among Democrats over exactly where the party went wrong in the first place, and why its power has so severely eroded at the federal and state levels in recent years. Abortion is just one of the issues at the center of that ongoing debate.
A date has not yet been scheduled for the meeting between Perez and Democrats for Life, but it is expected to take place at DNC headquarters in Washington, DC.
Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life of America, said her organization hopes to make the case during the meeting with Perez that “there needs to be a stronger message from the top of the party on down that we want to include pro-life Democrats in the party.” She added: “that means the party needs to help find pro-life Democratic candidates to run for office, help raise money for them, and help them win.”