Hey Hillary, is this legislation pro-life?

Democrats for Life.gifNow here is an interesting media-relations question. What does it mean when a group of Democrats gets together to announce a package of legislation and the press conference merits a wave of coverage from the Christian Communication Network, the Conservative Voice and LifeNews.com, but the event receives no coverage at all — zero, zip, nada — in the MSM?

Well, I would guess that might happen if the group holding the press conference is Democrats For Life.

Still, there is no question that the topic is newsworthy. I mean, even Hillary Clinton has talked about this subject and people like Andrew Sullivan have noticed this. If this is a real story, then it should end up affecting legislation. Right?

So here is a clip from the LifeNews.com report by Steven Ertelt:

Democrats for Life of America joined Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Bart Stupak (Michigan) and Lincoln Davis (Tennessee) at a press conference Friday to announce the “95-10 Initiative” — a plan to reduce abortions 95 percent in the next 10 years.

Kristen Day, director of DFLA, said the plan was “a legitimate policy initiative that will actually reduce the number of abortions.” She said it “has been met favorably by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates and elected officials.”

The initiative outlines 17 different policy programs designed to empower and promote women as well as protect unborn children. Some of those include a national toll-free number for pregnancy support, studying why women have abortions, funding daycare on college campuses, increasing funding for domestic violence programs, and making adoption tax credits permanent.

And so forth and so on. Obviously, there are critics of such an effort on the right as well as on the left. It’s a hot topic and compromise will be hard. After all, this effort would require proposing laws that involve tax dollars, adoption, birth control, daycare and a host of other sensitive moral, religious and political subjects. It would mean finding middle ground.

To me, that sounds like an interesting story. It looks like you will have to go to a niche news site to read about it.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • ECJ

    it’s hard to take seriously an organization like “Democrats for Life” because they have virtually no institutional power in the Democratic Party. After all, there is a reason that Democratic Presidential candidates journey every four years to Mount Naral – there to pledge their children as a blood sacrifice on the alter of abortion rights.

    That being said, it has struck me that the media never uses the ‘Big Tent’ metaphor about the Democrats. Perhaps this is because the metaphor is not primarily about making room in the GOP for two points of view – but is instead about de-legitimizing the universal nature of pro-life arguments. No one for example tries to make room in a political party for racism, so aboriton by definition cannot be in that moral category.

    Besides, abortion coverage is all about conflict – preferably some heroic enlightened modern holding the line against medieval religious reactionaries. But an organization has to be powerful enough to first generate a conflict, and organizations like “Democrats for Life” can’t even get a platform to speak at the convention. Who in the Democratic party really cares what they think?

    Oh, sure. Mrs Clinton will get a wink and a nod from the press when she makes some speech allegedly attempting to bridge the gap between the two camps. But everyone with two connected brain cells knows that it is just eyewash for the rubes.
    At the end of the day, Mrs Clinton will offer that blood sacrifice on Mount Naral as well. And the press will carry her luggage the whole way. But don’t ask the Press about ‘Democrats for Life’ while they are porting those suitcases. They’ll be too busy helping Mrs Clinton ‘bridge the gap.’


  • rodander

    What I don’t get from DFLA and the “safe, legal but rare” position is how something (abortion) can be so odious that it should be eliminated in practice, yet so important that the right to it is fundamental and must be unfettered. “Is it a good thing, or not a good thing?” is unanswerable under this approach.

    Unless 1) it is all about political expediency, or 2) there are no good things. I’m guessing both 1) and 2) are the prevailing Dem principles, so DFLA is perfect.

  • http://ucdems.blogspot.com Caelius Spinator

    Thanks. Just linked it to the University of Chicago Democrats blog, which no one reads I’m afraid.

  • William Harris

    To judge by conversations within the local party I know, Democrats for Life are only one of several conversations underway among Democrats. It is no secret that there exist several different positions witihin the Democratic Party regarding abortion, from the very conservative right to life to the readical pro-choice crowd. What is often overlooked is that the other party also shares a variety of views as well, albeit they have a far larger absolutist wing.

    The focus on policy, on what can be done to reduce actual numbers of abortions seems a pragmatic path that can potentially gain support from those with moderate pro-life sympathies in both parties. This pragmatic approach is also opposed by the purists at both ends of the spectrum, as all pragmatic actions are, being condemned for selling out some “truth” for a perceived lesser good.

    (I take this to be the heart of rodander’s remarks, above).

    If pragmatic actions do gain traction in the political dialogue — as I think they should — it will gain more attention from official political press. And in the meantime, we might even get a few less abortions. As a pro-life Democrat I would rather work for what we can do now, rather than engage in the futile posturing that has so characterized of recent years.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    rodander, I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy, a common logical fallacy. Clearly, there are many people in this country who wouldn’t classify abortion as “good,” but wouldn’t characterize it as “bad” in the same way that you do, either.

    The concept behind “safe, legal, and rare” is that abortion is an unfortunate and tragic necessity.

    Though that doesn’t quite pigeonhole as easily as abortion opponents would like, it explains where the majority of Americans are. The differences are in how rare most people want it to be. Obviously you’ve got some people who say “rare” but mean “common,” while others truly mean “rare” in the send of “to preserve the life and health of the mother,” and everywhere in between. I think it’s a mistake to demonize people at one end of the spectrum by lumping them in with the other end of the spectrum.

    Safe (for women, obviously), because some people remember — and others at least know the stereotype of — unsafe back-alley abortions. After all, who doesn’t want something to be “safe” when the alternative is “unsafe”?

    Legal, because those who believe life begins at conception are viewed as extremists by the majority.

    Rare, because the majority recognizes that abortion stop a beating heart, and even if they are unwilling to refer to those aborted as “babies,” they at least see it as a dramatic loss of potential.

    That’s my understanding of “Safe, Legal and Rare,” at least.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    What interested me about this was its attempt to deal with real legislative issues.

    My theory is the the Democratic establishment is going to want to change how it TALKS about life issues, but never get around to any actual compromise legislation on this middle ground — the kind that Santorum and Lieberman might come up with if you locked them in a room together for several days.

    Now, here is another question: What would James DOBSON do with this legislative package?

  • Fred

    Both sides continue to tiptoe around the core issues: At what point in its development does this bit of protoplasm 1)become human and 2) acquire status as a citizen? If it’s not defined as “the point of conception”, the definer is going to have to be a very insightful and convincing person. Left unanswered, this issue will continue to be the source of all the arguments and anger for which there will be no closure. The Supreme Court opened a Pandora’s box when it entertained the abortion issue.

  • http://plaidberry.blogspot.com Chad

    This is a great post. I commented on it here:


    It’s interesting to observe the disingenuous sentiment behind remarks such as the assertion to “make abortion rare”. Here’s the perfect chance – for both sides to do just that – and well.. I’m not holding my breath.