Empty-handed and duped: the pro-life Democrat

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?


7 thoughts on “Empty-handed and duped: the pro-life Democrat

  1. While I would never identify as a Democrat (I believe the function of Government is over-stepped with all the social programs…the church and charities are much better equipped to handle those needs than the huge, inefficient federal government of largesse) I still pulled for some Democrats who tried to uphold their principles, including Stupak.

    What is sad to me is that the Democratic party sold its soul to the Abortion industry in the 70s and never looked back. By extension, Dems are beholden to Embryonic Stem Cell Research and other “utilitarian” principles.

    As a non-Democrat (registered Independent, here)…so as an outsider looking in, I think the Democratic party has told pro-lifers over and over again that they don’t want them. The Democratic party has said over and over again that a woman has every right to terminate her pregnancy for any reason. So, as an outsider, I determined 18 years ago that the Democratic party told me that they did not want me. It’s sad.

    (HUGS) for you…I know you’re discouraged. I hit that point long ago.

  2. I am sorry. I have always been independent, so I didn’t have the same feeling of being let down by “my” party. But I do share the feeling of wondering whether there is any place politically that is a good fit for Catholics. Who is really on “our” side?

    My rep was one of the Democrats who voted against the bill… but he also seems unconcerned about healthcare, and is not exactly pro-life when it comes to issues of torture, the death penalty, and war. But then again, I do not feel at home with Republicans on those issues.

    I am finally prepared to start “wasting” my vote on candidates who do not have a chance at winning… and that is sad.

  3. I can relate how you feel. As a Democrat, I’m glad that the process of health care reform has started. But I’m sad that we cling to the old ideas. How better could resources be spent rather than fighting for abortion rights, but rather for resources to be given to women who are in a crisis pregnancy so that they could see that Abortion wasn’t their “only” option.

  4. I think “wasting” your vote on candiates who will lose is a noble gesture which plants the seeds for future reform. Don’t lose heart. The current political situation is absolute poison.

    The days of any manner of integrity in Washington politics are over, and the entire affair is centered on winning, hurting the opposition party, and bribery.

    Change in politics used to happen through ideas which could be described in a sentence or two. This bill’s complex system of government control fails that litmus test.

  5. The President just signed the abortion restrictions into law. I wasn’t too worried he wouldn’t, there’s too much anger about this in the country for him to go back on his words about that subject.

  6. I feel much the same way! I am sympathetic to the Democratic position on a lot of issues, were it not for their HUGE glaring hypocrisy that is abortion. How can a party that claims to be for the little guy abandon the littlest guy of all (to paraphrase Robert George)? I was so hopeful when pro-life Democrats were holding out on the health care bill, but hardly any of them have any credibility after this. Lipinski is great, but he’s almost the only one.

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