Pro-life Democrats and some election-minded politicos have faulted the decision of a Democratic state attorneys general organization to support only declared pro-abortion rights candidates.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association will require candidates to make a public pro-abortion statement if they want to receive backing from the group, the association announced. The association recruits candidates and provides financial support, data analysis, messaging work and policy position development.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, pointed to the victory of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a pro-life Democrat, who won reelection by about 40,000 votes on Nov. 16.
Given his recent victory, Day told CNA, “it is clearly the wrong direction for the Democratic Attorney Generals Association to impose an abortion litmus test on democratic candidates. This is particularly concerning for a party that prides itself on diversity and inclusion.”
“Governor Edwards did not run from his pro-life position, he embraced it and was proud to promote a whole life agenda to protect and support life from womb to tomb,” Day continued. “This was a source of strength for his campaign. An abortion-rights candidate would have lost. Imposing a litmus test on candidates would force one-third of Democrats, who oppose abortion, out of the party and lessen the opportunity for Democratic gains.”
“We encourage [the Democratic Attorneys General Association] to reconsider this shortsighted and discriminatory policy and embrace a big tent policy of inclusion,” she said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James discussed the new requirement in a Nov. 17 video for the group.
“Attorneys general are on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom,” James said. “They have the power to protect your rights.”
Jim Hood, Attorney General of Mississippi, is the only Democratic attorney general to describe himself as a pro-life Democrat. There are 27 Democrats holding this office across the U.S.
Former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a two-term Democratic attorney general who lost her 2018 Senate re-election bid in a strongly Republican state, told the New York Times she thought the new policy was “wrongheaded.”
“There are very principled people, who are Democrats, who feel very strongly about this issue for religious reasons and when you say you’re not welcome in our party I think it is exclusionary,” she said. “You have to look at the totality of a candidate.”
She too cited the victory of Gov. Edwards of Louisiana. Edwards campaigned on issues including his opposition to abortion and his support for a state law barring abortion when the unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon, a co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association’s executive committee, voiced hope that other Democratic committees would follow the group’s example of exclusive support for pro-abortion candidates.
“We are going to be the ones to be right out in front and hopefully the other committees will follow right along,” she told the New York Times.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association policy change had been under consideration for three years. Officials with the group said the new rule will attract more diverse candidates and increase the number of women who run for attorney general. In 2017 the association pledged to ensure at least half of the party’s attorneys general will be women by 2022.
Sean Rankin, executive director of the association, contended the new requirement will increase “the size of the tent.”
“Even in states like Georgia, Texas and Arizona, we’ve run pro-choice candidates who’ve done extraordinarily well,” he told the New York Times.
While Democratic political candidates used to speak frequently of their support for legal abortion with the caveat that it should be “safe, legal and rare,” recent years have witnessed a strong turn within the party against any abortion restrictions.
Democratic presidential primary candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has renounced his support for the Hyde Amendment, which bars most taxpayer-financed Medicaid funds for abortion.
In January a Virginia legislator put forward one of the most radical abortion bills in the country that would have removed most restrictions on second and third trimester abortions, including when the mother was in labor.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, explaining the bill on the regional radio station WTOP, said that under the legislation, a baby that survived a botched abortion would be made “comfortable” while the mother and doctor discuss whether or not the baby would be allowed to survive. He sparked a national uproar over his comments.
A New York law just signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo bars employers from enforcing certain codes of conduct or belief in the workplace with regard to “reproductive rights,” and requires them to inform employees of their right to abortions without fear of any workplace retaliatory action.
Several plaintiffs have challenged the law, saying it singles out pro-life and religious employers by refusing to exempt them. It forces these organizations to employ people who may have publicly defied the mission of an organization, such as a church employee who publicly opposes the teachings of that church on abortion or marriage.
Cuomo has also signed a law requiring contraceptive and abortifacient coverage in employee health plans and a law strengthening legal abortion in the event federal legal precedent is overturned or modified.
In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a measure requiring public universities to provide free access to drug-induced abortions for students and free abortion counseling services.