I have been a Democrat for as long as I can remember. I proudly registered as a Dem when I turned 18 so I could vote in the next primary election. I was an enthusiastic supporter of John Kerry in 2004. Then I became authentically pro-life, and it’s been an increasing struggle ever since. I joined Democrats for Life. I proudly wore their button at the March for Life in 2006.
It’s getting harder to name this identification with a straight face, and without wanting to add a disclaimer or two (or three). I’m a pro-life Democrat, but….
Naturally I felt so very proud when a small coalition of “pro-life” Democrats were sticking to their principles and demanding that the Hyde Amendment be maintained and conscience protections be included in the proposed health-care bill (which I mostly otherwise supported). Of special favor with me was Bart Stupak of Michigan. With Mr. Stupak and the coalition of 12 (or so) I finally felt hope that Pro-Life Democrat is possible. In talking with my husband, I compared Stupak with former PA Governor Bob Casey Sr., who was, to my mind, the definition of Pro-Life Democrat. Pro-life, then Democrat. The man who said, at Notre Dame (of all places) in 1995:
“It was sold to America, this idea [of legal abortion], as a kind of social cure, a resolution,” he said. “Instead, it has left us wounded and divided. We were promised it would broaden the circle of freedom. Instead, it has narrowed the circle of humanity. We were told the whole matter was settled and would soon pass from our minds. Twenty years later, it tears at our souls. And so, it is for me the bitterest of ironies that abortion on demand found refuge, found a home— and it pains me to say this — found a home in the national Democratic party. My party, the party of the weak, the party of the powerless.”
This is a man after my own heart. And I believed, nay I hoped, that Bart Stupak was made of the same mettle. And then Sunday. I don’t need to rehash all of it. You already know what happened. Here’s hoping the President doesn’t change his mind about the EO next week (but I won’t hold my breath). But until that time, what does it mean for those of us who call ourselves Pro-Life Democrats? Does Dan Lipinski (the Rep. from Illinois who alone of the coalition voted against the bill) become the rallying point? How long before the pressure of the party makes him cave too?
Kathryn Jean Lopez, though a Republican (I believe) nailed it on the head in her recent article when she said,
“Throughout the whole ordeal — both while Stupak was fighting and after he caved — I couldn’t get the late Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey out of my mind. He was pro-life, and he was a Democrat. And he didn’t actually have a home in the Democratic party. If you’re pro-life and you’re a Democrat, for decades now, you’ve found yourself empty-handed, duped, angry, or humiliated.”
When I examine my principles, I am most certainly not a Republican. I agree with *some* things the Republicans have to say. But no longer can I enthusiastically call myself a Democrat either. My own political journey aside, I identified with those adjectives – empty-handed, duped, angry, humiliated – to describe how I felt, not that the bill passed (as I had a feeling it would) but because Stupak and the rest (excepting Lupinski) caved.
To make a crude analogy, I felt how William Wallace in Braveheart felt when he realized that Robert the Bruce, who he counted on to be at his side in battle, was fighting with the opposition. I have learned my lesson: have faith that people can (and do) act with integrity, but know, deep in your bones, that the only one who never fails is Jesus Christ. I wonder if, during this dealings with his own party, Robert Casey Sr. might have said the same thing?