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What RFK Jr.’s abortion flip-flop says about the Democratic Party
In today’s Democratic Party, it is easier for a candidate to support abortion “up until the due date” than to say, “There should be fewer abortions.” That is cause for sober reflection.
For a brief moment on Sunday, a Democratic contender for president appeared to take a mainstream position in favor of limits on abortion. Then as quickly as it occurred, it was clawed back. This episode is an educational moment and another bad omen for the future of pro-life inclusion in an increasingly extreme and intolerant Democratic Party.
Here’s the transcript: https://twitter.com/alivitali/status/1690890657655590913?s=20
Kennedy’s position wasn’t ideal. But it was one that would fit into many homes across America today, in a way that the party platform would not. A recent Cygnal poll found that 56% of respondents overall and a plurality of Democrats support a federal limit on abortion at 15 weeks, a point when babies in the womb can feel pain.
Kennedy’s campaign later issued an unsigned retraction claiming he misunderstood the question and blaming ambient noise. Reporters were less than convinced. New York Magazine fumed that he had used the word “child.”
Monday afternoon, after SBA issued a call for clarity, a signed statement reportedly came:
“I am a firm supporter of the principles laid out 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
“For Constitutional and moral reasons, I believe the decision on whether to continue a pregnancy should be up to the mother…If the courts do not overturn Dobbs v. Jackson and restore abortion rights, I will support legislation to accomplish the same. Body sovereignty must be protected.”
(No mention of the child’s bodily sovereignty or rights.)
That would seem to be the end of the story, except the official line and the off-the-cuff remarks are deeply irreconcilable. The “principles” of Roe v. Wade, contrary to media mythology, were never limited. They took the issue away from the people and lawmakers and handed it to unelected courts and judges instead, and they placed the United States in a minority of nations, alongside China and North Korea, with elective late-term abortion. Opposition to that – and openness to any protections for unborn children at any level of government – is opposition to the precedents that the Court got horrifically wrong and which made Dobbs necessary.
As SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser observed, “It seems clear someone told Kennedy to step back in line.”
Democrat-on-Democrat intolerance is not new; it goes back at least to the barring of Bob Casey Sr. from speaking at the 1992 party convention because of his pro-life convictions (tragically, his son has now fully abandoned that legacy and backs the most radical legislation his colleagues can put forward).
What is relatively new is that even pro-abortion Democrats face these sort of demands.
On the same day, an open letter of sorts appeared in the Denver Post from a trio of Democratic state legislators in Colorado. It called Governor Jared Polis – of all people – on the carpet for not being pro-abortion enough. Months before Dobbs, Polis signed one of the nation’s most extreme pro-abortion laws. Colorado today is one of seven states plus D.C. with unlimited late-term abortion.
One of the Democratic lawmakers’ complaints reads, “…in an appearance on CNN…the governor chose to address abortion rights and declared that Democrats don’t believe that ‘abortion is good’ adding that ‘it’s bad’ and we need to minimize the number of abortions.”
Sean Hannity, who agreed to moderate a debate between Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom later this year, recently wondered aloud if it is Republicans who should return to Bill Clinton’s formula of “safe, legal and rare.” But by and large, it is not the GOP that is radically out of touch with constituents. A year after Dobbs, 25 states have put pro-life protections into law – half the country – and a dozen pro-life governors were soundly re-elected last year. Mike Huckabee’s reply was spot on:
This analysis in the Pennsylvania Daily Star, which reported on Cygnal’s polling, is also true:
Sam Kay, a pollster and elections analyst for OnMessage, asserts there is a winning strategy for Republicans on abortion, but it will take money, message discipline, and a clear policy platform. In a June opinion piece for Newsweek, Kay noted Republicans were outspent on abortion advertising 45 to 1. Democrats controlled the abortion debate. They still do.
“Instead of creating a platform that discusses reasonable limitations, supports mothers, and clarifies the party’s desire for exceptions—areas where Republicans are competitive—overwhelming Democratic money ensures the debate is all about Republican extremism,” Kay wrote. “The GOP will need to commit substantially more resources to shift the conversation and prevent Democrats from misrepresenting their positions.”
“The American people largely support reasonable limits on abortion. They just need to know that that’s what Republicans are fighting for.”
As for the Democrats, we have great gratitude and respect for those valiant souls like former Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski who continue to be the conscience of their party and the voice of reason on the inside, standing virtually alone.
Voters nevertheless must confront stark choices. The reality is that, in today’s Democratic Party, it is easier for a candidate to support abortion “up until the due date” than to say, “There should be fewer abortions.”
That is cause for sober reflection.