Democrats in Arkansas Rebel Against DNC Chair for Saying No Pro-Life Democrats Allowed

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 1, 2017   |   11:01AM   |   Little Rock Arkansas

Arkansas Democrats pushed back against national party leaders last week and said candidates who oppose abortion are welcome in their state.

April brought the topic of abortion to the forefront of the Democratic Party. The debate erupted after abortion activists criticized DNC Chair Tom Perez, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and others for supporting Heath Mello, a Nebraska mayoral candidate who has a pro-life voting record.

Perez responded to abortion activists by describing abortion as a “fundamental value” to the party and said every Democrat should support it. Some described Perez’s statements as a “litmus test” for future Democratic candidates.

While abortion activists praised the statement, some Democrats criticized Perez for basically closing the tent on candidates with pro-life positions.

Arkansas Democratic leaders made it clear last week that they will welcome pro-life candidates in their state.

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Arkansas Online reports:

“The only litmus test we care to take is whether what we do is in the best interest of the people we serve,” said Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, who is the recently elected chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. “Ideological purity leaves little room for compromise on our most important issues.”

In a statement Tuesday, he said those who struggle with the issue of abortion should “double down on their efforts to fund the very resources and programs — like women’s health initiatives and access to contraception — that significantly lower abortion rates.”

Arkansas is a traditionally conservative, pro-life state, and Democrats’ support or opposition to abortion is mixed. According to the report, a “handful” of Arkansas Democrats supported a bill this year to ban dismemberment abortions.

Arkansas Senate Republican leader Jim Hendren wrote on Twitter that the national party’s pro-abortion “litmus test” could be the “final straw” for some pro-life Democrats in the Arkansas legislature. Other Republicans encouraged pro-life Democrats to join their party.

Gray responded by assuring pro-life Democrats that they will be welcome in Arkansas.

“Much to the chagrin of those who thrive on the discord that accompanies debate over lightning rod issues, the Democratic Party of Arkansas is undeterred,” Gray said. “We are a family and we recognize that our strength is reflected in our ability to house a variety of views and yet still manage to evolve alongside the needs of a changing society.”

The national Democratic Party’s hardline support of abortion is alienating voters. The party platform is extreme and out of touch with most Americans. The party platform supports legalizing late-term abortions for any reason, something most Americans oppose. And last year, the DNC adopted a platform calling for taxpayers to fund abortions, another very unpopular stance among Americans.

The Democratic Party has not always been so extreme on abortion. The party, which prides itself in fighting for the vulnerable, once welcomed strong pro-life politicians who fought for the rights of unborn babies.

In 2003, for example, 79 Democrats voted to ban partial-birth abortions; but in 2015, only seven voted to ban late-term abortions, Dr. Michael New of Ave Maria University wrote recently.

Democrats for Life estimates more than 23 million Democrats in the U.S. are pro-life. Last year, Pew Research found that 28 percent of Democrats say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Marist/KofC polling also found that 23 percent of Democrats consider themselves pro-life.