The proposal seemed modest in today’s polarized political climate: The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee suggested his group might help fund candidates who didn’t share the party’s support for abortion rights.
The backlash from abortion-rights activists and organizations was quick and harsh. The basic message: Don’t go there.
A coalition of progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a “statement of principles” challenging the party to be unwavering in its support for abortion rights. Scores of women who have had abortions made the same point in an open letter to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch abortion-rights supporter who nonetheless says there’s room in the party for opposing views
“The DCCC should not be supporting any politician who does not respect a woman’s right to control her body,” said Karin Roland, of the women’s rights group Ultraviolet. “There is no future of the Democratic Party without women — so stop betraying them for a misguided idea of what’s needed to win elections.”
The latest brush fires were sparked this week by the DCCC chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, when he told The Hill newspaper that the committee is willing to aid candidates who oppose abortion rights. His core argument: Democrats — after a series of dismaying losses in national and state elections — will only reclaim power by winning in GOP-leaning districts and states where the liberal base can’t deliver victories on its own.
A DCCC official, Meredith Kelly, said Lujan isn’t looking specifically for abortion-rights opponents, even in conservative districts. But, she added, “We are working right now to recruit candidates who represent Democratic values and who also fit the districts they are running in.”
The current Congress is almost monolithic when it comes to abortion. Only a small handful of Republicans vote in favor of abortion rights; a similarly small number of Democrats support restrictions on abortion.
Some Democratic officials suggest the argument over Lujan’s remarks is overblown — a handful of outliers won’t change the agenda if Democrats reclaim congressional majorities.
Abortion-rights leaders have a different view.
“Every time the Democrats lose an election, they start casting about in ways that are deeply damaging to the base,” NARAL president Ilyse Hogue said. “If they go out and start recruiting anti-choice candidates…