Post Stupak: Do Pro-Life Democrats Exist, Can They be Trusted on Abortion?

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 24, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Post Stupak: Do Pro-Life Democrats Exist, Can They be Trusted on Abortion?

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 24
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The hallmark of the pro-life movement since the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 has been that pro-life elements exist in both the Republican and Democratic parties. But, over the years, the Democratic Party has seen a watering down of its pro-life contingent that has resulted in what pro-life groups say is the Stupak betrayal.

Congressman Bart Stupak’s decision to trade his and his colleague’s votes for the pro-abortion health care bill for a highly-disputed executive order is merely the most recent action by a pro-life Democrat to irk the pro-life community.

But Stupak wasn’t the first to find himself in the doghouse.

The Democratic Party is littered with politicians who traded their pro-life convictions or generally pro-life voting record for the upper echelons of party and political leadership.

Former president Bill Clinton, former vice-president Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, current number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich — the list goes on and on of Democrats who, at one time, articulated the pro-life position only to compromise down the road.

The decision by Stupak and other pro-life Democrats to back the pro-abortion health care bill prompted reactions from some pro-life advocates saying pro-life Democrats no longer exist.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly called them a "myth" and William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week that they no longer exist.

Ironically, pro-life Democrats in the House and Senate were able to command enough respect through their highly-sought votes that they could have put themselves in positions of indefinite power.

"For the first time since Roe v. Wade, pro-life Democrats had seized the legislative initiative in the teeth of their leadership’s opposition—and brought the party of abortion to heel," McGurn said about their pre-vote positions. "Now Mr. Stupak has thrown it away."

"By caving at the last hour, he discredited all who stood with him," McGurn continued. "In addition to undermining an encouraging partnership with pro-lifers across the congressional aisle, Mr. Stupak signaled that, in the end, you can’t count on pro-life Democrats."

Chris Smith, the long-time leader of pro-life lawmakers in the House, told WSJ that Democrats face enormous pressure to yield because the party is so beholden to pro-abortion interests.

"The peer pressure to be part of the team can be overwhelming," he said. "But sometimes it’s absolutely necessary, regardless of the cost, to bend into the wind, unmovable, committed to what your heart, mind and conscience know to be right."

"For so long, Bart did that. Then he was like a runner who stopped a hundred feet before the finish line. It’s a sad day for the unborn, a sad day for their mothers, and a serious setback for the culture of life," he said.

Mike Fichter, the head of Indiana Right to Life who recently wrote a book on the subject of pro-life strategy, also says pro-life Democrats are no more.

Despite hailing from a state with an inordinate amount of pro-life Democrats, Fichter is calling on pro-life organizations to withhold support and endorsement of all Democratic candidates for federal office as a result of Sunday’s passage of health reform legislation that includes federal funding for abortion.

"We must now relentlessly work for a Republican majority if we are to repeal this disastrous legislation, and that means withholding all support for Democratic candidates," he told

"We must especially recognize the political betrayal by those Democratic members of the House who call themselves pro-life, yet chose in the end to place party over principles by supporting this massive expansion of abortion. The pro-life movement has learned firsthand that party affiliation matters, and it is a lesson we must never forget," Fichter added.

Democrats for Life of America, the national group for pro-life Democrats, isn’t helping its cause.

In comments that, to pro-life advocates, make it appear to put party over principle, the organization has praised Stupak and the pro-abortion health care bill.

Despite the outpouring of opposition from the pro-life movement, DFLA issued a second response upping the ante further.

"Health care reform has long been a priority within our Party’s agenda, one that most pro-life Democrats have firmly supported," the group said in a statement received. "Pro-life Democrats now eagerly look forward to continuing as major players in future policy decisions."

Yet, if Stupak and company continue upsetting pro-life groups they will find themselves on the outside of the pro-life movement looking in, and potentially out of a job as pro-life advocates look to pro-life Republican opponents to replace them.

Though advocates like McGurn and Fichter spell out the death of pro-life Democrats, 34 voted against the pro-abortion health care bill and several voted against abortion funding.

Some, like Dan Lipinski of Illinois, who had worked closely with Stupak before the vote, didn’t go along with the agreement with President Barack Obama for an executive order.

But Stupak’s compromise and the decision by Democrats for Life of America to side with Stupak over them puts these last pro-life Democrats in a tough position.

Ostracized by the organization that bears their name and with the greater pro-life movement feeling like pro-life Democrats are traitors to the cause, they may become increasingly marginalized.

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.