Are Pro-Life Democrats Being Hunted to Extinction by Their Own Party?

I’ve got a strong pulse for somebody who’s supposed to be extinct.

I am battered, chipped, stained and cracked in a few places. But extinct? Nope. I am a pro-life Democrat, and according to a recent Weekly Standard article, I am a living ghost of times past.

Is that true? Am I one of the last of my kind, the final dinosaur stumbling to the end of its species? Well … maybe. Maybe I am.

The Standard article makes a good case for the notion that even if there are a few pro-life Democrats rattling around, they are so compromised that they have no significance. Democrats for Life of America is a case in point. This gutsy little band of warriors keeps hanging on in the despised fringes of the larger Democratic party, doing their best to be the voice of life in the party of abortion.

I had great hopes for Democrats for Life of America. I still hope for them. I have spoken at their national convention, and was for a while one of their two state directors in Oklahoma. But as the Standard article makes clear, their presence at the Democratic National Convention this week was a sad affair marked primarily by the absence of anyone paying them the least little bit of attention. Not a single current Democratic office holder bothered to show up at their event.

They did have a smattering of former Democratic office holders. They were mostly people who either gave up or lost their office as a result of the fight to put pro life language into the Affordable Health Care Act. Pro-life Democrats took a beating in the last election, which explains the total lack of interest from those currently in power.

In my opinion the reason why pro life Democrats took such a drubbing at the polls in 2010 is simple. They compromised on the Affordable Health Care Act. There was a moment in time when pro-life Democrats held the aspirations of pro life people in their hands. They were the ones who had the power to force the President to accept language that would have blocked using federal money to pay for abortions. This language could have staved off attacks on religious liberty such as the HHS Mandate.

For a while they held tough. I remember how proud I was of them. Then, they blinked. I understand the enormity of the pressures they were under. I’ve read that at least one of them was threatened with the closure of military bases in his district. This would have cost thousands of his constituents their jobs. That’s not a small thing to an elected official. Your constituents trust you and rely on you to take care of them. When these power throw-downs come along, you are often all they’ve got. Protecting them becomes a reflex, similar to the reflexive way we jump to protect our children.

President Obama placed these Democratic office holders in the terrible position of either endangering the livelihoods of thousands of the people they were supposed to protect, or caving on the pro life amendments to the Affordable Health Care Act. That is the sort of threat that would make any decent office holder quake.

When he offered them empty promises as a sop, a way out, they jumped on those promises. The rest is history. The ink was barely dry on the Affordable Health Care Act when the President began to renege on the promises he made to pass it. We have now reached the point that he has turned it into a direct attack on religious freedom with the HHS Mandate.

But even before the HHS Mandate, the whole pro-life Democrat house of cards had come tumbling down.

Pro life people, rightly outraged, vowed to never support another Democrat. Those pro-life Democrats who had failed to fight to the death over the Affordable Health Care Act were mostly either defeated at the polls or simply decided not to run for re-election. What we got as a result was a Democratic Party that was even more fixedly pro abortion (as opposed to pro choice) and nihilistic than ever before. This distillation of the party also resulted in the loss of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. The party that was left was leaner, meaner and narrower in focus than ever before.

All this raises two questions, both of them very serious to the pro life cause and the future of our nation. The first question is simple and straightforward: Is it possible for anyone except an exception to be a pro life Democrat?

Odd as this may sound, I say yes, it is possible. But the person who undertakes this has to be tougher than the pro-life Democrats we’ve had before. It is not possible to be a pro-life Democrat and be well-liked or supported by your party. The pressures other Democrats put on pro life Democrats to compromise their beliefs are enough to squeeze a lump of coal into a diamond. Unfortunately what happens in practice is that they far too often manage to squeeze the diamond of a pro life Democrat into a lump of compromising coal.

I know something of these pressures. I’ve been attacked by my party for so long, in so many ways because I am pro life that I honestly have lost count and memory of a lot of it. After all, who wants to reminisce about the bad times? I’ve had other Democratic House members yell at me and tell me to get out of the party, not just once in a while, but almost every working day. I’ve been through the threats, slanders, pickets, censure votes and shunning. I’ve eaten lunch alone and sat by myself in meetings time after time and day after day. All because I am pro life.

I’m not going to go into the details, because the details don’t matter. What matters is that these pressures were always an attempt to get me to compromise. Not, mind you, to switch to pro choice, but to compromise. A lot of times what they wanted me to do was far more politically savvy than what I actually did do. They were willing to let me hide in plain sight and say I was pro life, just so long as I would compromise.

But I can’t reason my way past the tripping-up truths of the pro life cause to find a compromise that doesn’t involve either killing people or helping someone else kill people. I’m too unsophisticated and basic in the way I look at things to be confused by the obfuscations and serpentine reasoning that most people fall for.

I look past all that with my simple little Okie brain and think, I’m not gonna kill anybody. And I won’t help anyone else do it, either.

So, the answer is yes, you can be a pro life Democrat and do it right. But you’ve got to be willing to be a little bit politically stupid in the clinches. You can’t let yourself be fooled by the tomfoolery that will come at you. And you have to look ‘em in the eye when they threaten you and not blink.

How do you do this? You pray the Rosary every day. Go to daily mass. Go to confession frequently. Read the Bible. And spend lots of time with your family and real friends — you know, the people who aren’t impressed with you but who love you even when you’re in disgrace.

The answer, in short, is that you’ve got to stay grounded; grounded in Christ, grounded in the real relationships of your life

The second question is a little bit more complex. Does it matter if there are pro life Democrats?

After all, the pro life movement runs strong on the Republican side of the fence. Why not just keep investing where you get the best returns?

I won’t go into this too deeply since I’m going to talk about it a lot on this blog. But I will say that yes, it does matter. It matters because we can not ever build a culture of life with half the people. It matters because to a large extent the official Republican Party (as opposed to the rank and file) is flimflamming us with their vows of pro life fealty. It matters because our country cannot survive if it continues with this polarized win-at-all-costs-even-if-it-harms-the-country hyper partisan governance.

Are pro-life Democrats being hunted to extinction by their own party? Yes. We are.

Does it matter to this country and to the pro life movement if they are? Yes. It does.

If pro-life Democrats want to have a voice in the party, they’ve got to stop compromising their pro-life principles for the party. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but I believe it’s a fact. However the real reason for not compromising is not to affect the party. It’s that you don’t and shouldn’t compromise about core values. Not killing people (to put it in my simplistic terms) is the core value. If human beings don’t respect human life, we descend rather quickly to a world where the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules.

The right to life is the basic human right. Nothing anyone can say has the power to change that. If we compromise there, then we’re not on a slippery slope, we’re in a chute, going straight down.

  • Mary Christine

    I hope you will take this comment in the spirit it is written, without any ill intent. But I would ask – why are you still a democrat? Why not go to the party that agrees with your pro-life views?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      It’s a good question Mary Christine. It’s a long story, actually. The short answer is that I prayed about it — three times — and got the same answer each time, which was that by being a Democrat I was where He wanted me to be. In the years after that prayer, God used me to help pass pro-life legislation in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been a Democrat. When I say “God used me” it’s not an idle phrase. It was as if I was a chess piece He’d put in place to use for that purpose.

      That, by the way, is why I’m so certain that we need people in both parties. I’ve lived it.

      • Mary Christine

        Thanks for the response Rebecca. God bless you for being willing to be on the front lines of what looks like a losing battle.

        As for bipartisanship, I think the Governor of Colorado’s speech last night was awesome. Sadly, I only found it on CSPAN. Not on the networks or cable news. They were waiting with anticipation for the nun on the bus, I guess.

    • Maureen

      I, too, am a Pro-Life Democrat. I used to vote on the single issue of abortion. But I realized as I got older, that there are many other issues that must be considered. Just this week, I asked myself,
      “what would Jesus do?” He would be a voice for the underdog. He would continue to feed the poor, help the homeless, take care of the widows and orphans… those who needed help….not tell them good luck to you and “take care of yourselves”…while, at the same time, trying to educate them and make them understand that life begins at the moment of conception.
      Do you REALLY think that the Republicans care about life issues at their very root?…I think it’s to make sure that they don’t have to pay their taxes appropriately. It’s the Haves vs. the Have-nots as I see it.
      P.S. I wonder if people realize that the definition of middle class is anyone whose income is less than $200,000? Isn’t that MOST of us??
      God bless you Rebecca for doing the hard part and going out on the line; I respect that very much.

      • Ted Seeber

        I thought it was $350,000.

        You are right. However, I just can’t vote Democrat. I can’t support that party as long as their definition of fighting poverty is the pre-birth equivalent of taking a machine gun to Harlem.

        But that doesn’t mean I can vote Republican either- when their definition of Pro-Life seems to end at birth and isn’t anything close to “From Conception until Natural Death”.

        I’m stuck with being a foreigner in my own state, Oregon, and my own country, at best.

  • Jessica Hoff

    Bless you Rebecca – and you are right, this evil cannot be reversed by one party alone.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks Jessica. You and I see this. I just wish I could get the point across to others.

  • neenergyobserver

    You are correct, as usual, we need a strong pro-life (or to be more general, conservative) segment of the Democratic party. If you all came over to my party we would win a lot and we would grow arrogant and elitist as well. The thing is, as I suspect you have found, many of us out here will support democrats, because we will support character. We presently find more of it in the Republicans but not always. I personally have voted for repubs, dems, and even libertarians in nearly every election.

    In some ways the polarization we are looking at now is not so much democrat/republican as it is the government versus the people, and unfortunately the national democratic party has decided to be the party of Hobbes, which many of us find downright anti-American,

    God bless you and keep you, Rebecca. and those like you, for we need you.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      It’s interesting. I’ve had Republicans in my district re-register as Democrats so that they could vote for me in a Democratic primary, then re-register back as Republicans after the election. I didn’t ask them to. It was their idea.

      • neenergyobserver

        Doesn’t surprise me a bit, I would, happily, although in some cases it could depend on other races as well, as I’ sure you understand. :-)

        In any case this just turned up from CNS:

        For a moment I thought it was your article. :-)

  • Manny

    Obamacare and pro-life did not need to be mutually exclusive. It was a conscious decision because Obama and the Democratic Party by and large (and at this point to my perception it’s nearly 100%) is the party of abortion. Just like the HHS mandate was a conscious decision. Such conscious decisions tell you what is at their core.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Sadly, I agree Manny. What I’m trying to say is that means we’ve got missionary work to do.

      • Manny

        That is true. And I don’t want the Democratic party to be (1) completely secularlist or (2) completely pro-abortion. Those two issues should not be what divides this nation along party lines. Religion and life should unite us, and if it they did I think more Catholics would be Democrats than Republicans.

  • Mr. V.


    Thanks for this post, and all your other post about politics and the challenges of living your faith in the political arena. It is inspiring to read accounts of those like you who manage to push on as Christians in spite of the enormous difficulties you face on a normal basis.

    In regards to politics, I’m a card carrying Republican and have been for many years (although I’ve never been one to cast my vote simply on a party basis – I have many times voted for a democrat or other party if I felt they were the better choice). However, each election finds me increasingly disenchanted, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to cast my vote. The election this year is proving to be my hardest challenge yet. I can’t in good conscience vote for Obama, as his stance on abortion horrifies me. I’m in the same quandary, though, with Romney. Though he talks a good game for pro-life, still his past actions cast doubt on his current rhetoric.

    My struggle right now is this: Should I vote for independents that more closely, by either their words or actions or both, represent my beliefs and what’s important to me, even if that vote is largely ineffective? On one hand, I think if I cast my vote in that way, at least I can end the day knowing I stuck with my beliefs. On the other hand, since for most of the larger elections, the only ones that have a chance are the democrats and the republicans, and casting a vote otherwise is kind of a wasted vote, and a more effective vote would be to choose which of those two candidates best mirrors what’s important to me.

    More and more I think it’s come time to vote the two biggest parties out of power as much as possible and bring in new blood.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’m one of you.

      • Mr. V.

        Yes, you are. I hope you weren’t offended in any way by my previous post. It was not my intent to attack the democrats or the republicans. I just think that they, on the national level at least, have grown too large and bloated with money and power to be of much use for the common man. They (national level democrats and rebublicans) no longer represent us, but rather their parties, in my opinion.

        Equally discouraging is the state of political debate across the nation. I can’t tell you how sick I am of conservatives bashing the ‘godless heathen liberals’ or liberals bashing the ‘backward nazi conservatives’. It’s become all too easy to demonize the other side. Too many of us have forgotten that we’re all Americans, and each of us has good points; if only we could just take the time to sit down and have a reasoned debate where the actual issues are discussed. It’s sad that after listening to many of the political ads and speeches, and reading or listening to political commentators and bloggers, one can name all the faults and scandals and weaknesses of the different politicians, but little to no idea of what their goals, platforms, important causes, or past record as a policitian are.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Not offended at all; quite the contrary.

          This is sooooo true!
          “Equally discouraging is the state of political debate across the nation. I can’t tell you how sick I am of conservatives bashing the ‘godless heathen liberals’ or liberals bashing the ‘backward nazi conservatives’. It’s become all too easy to demonize the other side. Too many of us have forgotten that we’re all Americans, and each of us has good points; if only we could just take the time to sit down and have a reasoned debate where the actual issues are discussed. It’s sad that after listening to many of the political ads and speeches, and reading or listening to political commentators and bloggers, one can name all the faults and scandals and weaknesses of the different politicians, but little to no idea of what their goals, platforms, important causes, or past record as a policitian are.”

  • vickie


    Thank you for your enlightening website.

    “After all, the pro life movement runs strong on the Republican side of the fence. ” Yes because of dedicated pro-lifers but I don’t think it runs deep among a lot of the leadership and major donors. I would like to see abortion eliminated as a “solution” in society just as chattel slavery has been. That will take reasoning with people of all ideological persuasions which will take people sympathetic to their point of view on other matters. I lean libertarian, I am trying to talk to them in their own language about life.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      “I lean libertarian, I am trying to talk to them in their own language about life.”

      That’s missionary work, my friend. I’m sure it often seems thankless, but it’s not. Thank you for doing it.

  • Phil Brown

    So do “pro-life” Democrats vote for Obama? If so, doesn’t that undo your pro-life work? And if not, again, the question: Why are you a Democrat if you can’t support your top candidate for office? This contradiction truly makes me wonder.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Read up through the comments Phil. I sort of answered your last question earlier. Frankly, anyone who just pulls a lever for one party is voting blind a lot of the time. As to how people will vote, I only know that it will be by secret ballot. I want to share what little bit I’ve learned to help them make more informed decisions. I don’t want to do their deciding for them.

  • julian

    Simply beautiful. Keep it up!

  • Indy

    I’m a pro-life Democrat as well and it has pained me to see what the Democrats have done to its own people in the last four years. Why am I a Democrat instead of a Republican? I can answer that – because I’ve always believed that the Democratic party’s core value was to help the common people in the United States – that they cared about my job – my family – my community. That women and children were protected and cared for by their government even if the rest of the world didn’t care. And then I woke up about 4 years ago and realized that none of it is true. But I am also not a Republican. I think I have decided that my only recourse is to pray and as an individual become who Jesus has called me to be. I still care deeply about the political process and America but I fear that it no longer cares for me. I’m moving on to a higher calling.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Congratulations! You’ve chosen the better half, regardless of party.
      “I have decided that my only recourse is to pray and as an individual become who Jesus has called me to be.”

  • Paul Bradford

    Rebecca, I stand back in awe!

    As He has for many, many others, God has placed a burden on my heart to pray for, and to work for the health and safety of my brothers and sisters in the human family who are currently preparing to be born. Like anyone who is drawn to this issue, I have read thousands of articles, posts and comments pertaining to the politics of protecting the unborn. I have never, never read a more helpful or inspiring piece than the one you just shared with us. Brava!!

    You make a convincing case, but I will need a lot more encouragement before I start to identify myself as a Pro-Life Democrat. I’m certainly not a Pro-Life Republican (or any kind of Republican!) I will, however, own up to being a Pro-Life American.

    I spoke at my Church, last October, on the occasion of ‘Respect Life Sunday’. I expect to be invited to speak again next month. I emphasized then that a Pro-Life orientation requires more than simply taking a certain political position on this issue or that. Pro-Life, I said, is an acknowledgement of what it means to be human. To be Pro-Life, and to be awakened to the reality of what is entailed by sharing the same humanity as Jesus, is to understand that each of us bears a profound moral obligation to meet the needs of those who depend on us. To be Pro-Life is to renounce the destructive myth of self-sufficiency (or, dare I say, viability). To be Pro-Life is to realize that there is NO life without a reverence and respect for ALL life.

    Having taken that orientation, it is easy for me to fashion arguments as to why a mother is obligated to preserve the life of her unborn child. Of course, as a well-to-do, middle-aged, white male who is blessed with an abundance of generous and talented friends and family members I know that I’m not going to score a lot of points by giving unwanted lectures on ethics to (mainly) poor, (mainly) young, (mainly) minority women who are (in the main) isolated from the social supports that make life bearable. Therefore, I address my sermons to the 99% of us who are NOT currently pregnant and to urge those folks to consider their obligations to OTHER PEOPLE’S unborn children.

    We can’t meet our obligation to be good to the unborn unless we learn how to be good to the MOTHERS of the unborn. We need to equip these women with adequate health care, with pediatric care, with parenting support, with emotional assistance, with financial security, with protection from domestic abuse and with every other sort of support that will enable them to understand that they truly belong, that they matter and that they are supported by the rest of us. Otherwise, why should they believe that their children belong, or matter, or deserve support?

    My position on this issue has left me open to unending charges of misogyny and male chauvinism by those who consider themselves advocates for women’s issues; and yet I continue to point out that every social trend that supports the well-being of women tends to lower the rate of abortion whereas every social trend that leaves women vulnerable and weak raises the rate of abortion. Frequent abortion is no indication of female emancipation.

    Of course, I’m a guy — so what do I know?


    • Rebecca Hamilton

      “Of course, I’m a guy — so what do I know?”
      Paul, you know a lot. If there were more like you, we wouldn’t have had 40 years of the abortion holocaust. We could have stopped it long ago. Bless you.

  • Art Chartier

    Being a Pro-Life Democrat is a calling… not a choice. Measurable results are really not the point – although God wants us to bear good fruit. Bearing witness to the Truth before God is what counts. God is the One who changes hearts… ultimately it’s His fight.

    He’s got a lot of work to do with that crowd – but, not to worry, God can handle it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Well said Art!

  • Steve Evans

    You are absolutely right. The pinnacle of the expression of God’s creative self is human life. Creation did not become Very Good until the Lord had fashioned these God-image bearers. No matter how much we may think in terms of personal convenience, comfort, or well being, when we defy God’s clearly expressed word and desire that all life, from its moment of conception, be held as sacred, we are serving none of our stated purposes. In fact, we are devaluing humanity to a level beneath the beasts, and God will not bless our endeavors.

    However, He will bless those of people of courage who stand for what is righteous. So, I pray Christ’s blessing on you and on others who do not compromise. I also concur with you that this is not an issue of political party; it is a matter of moral conviction and Godly ethics. There is a need for the voice of righteousness to be expressed in all of our political camps. I pray to God that He will stir the hearts of people throughout our nation and around the world to cry out in defense of life as God sees it.

    Thank you, Rebecca

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank YOU Steve, for this beautiful (and true) comment!

  • Jeremy Marshall

    I’ve been a pro-life Democrat for as long as I could vote. I went to a little fundamentalist college that was recently ranked by someone or others as the 4th most conservative college in the U.S. Anyway, it blew people away that a) we had a little chapter of College Democrats on campus and b) I was the chaplain of it. Well, they weren’t blown away that I was the chaplain–they knew I was weird. They were blown away by the fact that there WAS a chaplain. They figured we MUST be godless heathens. Anyhow, point being, there was this Right to Life group on campus, too, and some of them said, “You know, you could PROVE you are pro-life by joining up with us.” My reply: no way. You guys don’t focus on the life issue only. You’re promoting candidates whose political stances toward the poor, working, and middle classes are actually hostile and draconian. I can’t travel with you in all good conscience. Because the Right to Life group on our campus was actually a surrogate for movement conservatism as a whole. Rebecca, I think you have a fine witness. It’s not only that we can’t create a culture of life around one party, one half of the country. It’s also that the culture of life should not be collapsed and absorbed into a partisan ideology. This is precisely why it has become a mere talking point. In the end I have chosen to cast my lot with the Democrats because I cannot imagine aligning myself with those who oppose abortion (which is a good) but at the same time obstruct the path to building the sort of society capable of welcoming those children into the world when they are born. That, of course, entails fairness, opportunity, a concern for the preservation of God’s creation, a culture of sharing and neighborliness. I am not under any illusion that the Democratic Party is capable of creating such a culture. But at the same time, I certainly don’t believe that the answer is to sell out to those voices encouraging us to go Galt and baptizing it in Jesus’ name.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I believe this is true.

      “It’s not only that we can’t create a culture of life around one party, one half of the country. It’s also that the culture of life should not be collapsed and absorbed into a partisan ideology. This is precisely why it has become a mere talking point.”

      That’s why I say that it doesn’t matter which party you are in, if you are a Christian, you have missionary work to do. Thank you Jeremy this comment.

  • Wendy Macdonald

    Wow! Your post and all the comments are sure rich food for thought. My son recently asked me what political party I am supportive of in Canada. I thought it an odd question, at first, because it has never been a secret. But then as I pondered I said,”none.” I’m noticing a trend here in Canada that reminds me of our dear neighbors ( USA) and that is that the families and lower-middle class seem to be falling more and more through the cracks – even under the leadership of a so-called family oriented government. Then if our government does try to help families – there is opposition about how to do this and so many people are pro-daycare and whine if money is given to families instead. I’ve cut my own hair and that of my family (pets included), shopped second hand and cooked mostly from scratch to be able to stay home with our children. I just wonder what the next generation will have to do to survive?
    Thanks for being focused on truth & life. I guess that’s what I can tell my son: I support life for all- conception to the deathbed! ~ Wendy

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Great comment Wendy! Thanks for making it.
      I did all this when I stayed home with my kids too.
      ” I’ve cut my own hair and that of my family (pets included), shopped second hand and cooked mostly from scratch to be able to stay home with our children.”

  • Michael

    You are a rarity and yes maybe even a dinosaur, but not because you are a pro-life Democrat. You are a rarity because you are a politician who has the courage of your conviction and struggle against even your own party platform to proclaim your principles. We need this so much in our country today. And this is on both sides of the aisle. It probably would be easier for you to switch parties but in a sense that would just divide us even further. You are doing heroic and courageous work by staying within your party and sticking to your principles even when it appears no one is listening. If a new Profiles In Courage were to be written, I would nominate you to be included. Hang in there and know that there are many of us out here who are encouraged by you and keeping you and your Dem (and really all our elected officials) in our prayers.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Michael for this very kind comment.

  • Carol

    I happened on your site and read your post about your Daddy, which was touching. But then I see that you call yourself a pro-life Democrat, which is an oxymoron. And I have long wondered, and you have not really answered, how a Catholic pulls the lever for the most pro- abortion candidate we have ever had for president, and belongs to the party of Nancy Pelosi, who in making up her own theology and leading others into sin, surely has a circle of hell reserved for her. Not meaning to sound rude – your mother was right – but I wonder constantly how Catholics square that circle.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Carol. I vote by secret ballot, so you’ll have to guess as to which lever I pull when I vote. As to the rest of your comment, read some of the other posts on this site and think it through.

  • Peg

    Thank you for your great witness. We mist all be good Catholics, Christians first. Both parties are systemically corrupt and fall short on basic morality and civiility. We must push them to do better, look at third parties and grass roots action and educate those placed around us to see the fullness of truth and love on life issues. Go girl!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Peg. You really “get it.”

  • Carol Roddy

    If I wasn’t so sure there are no accidents I would say “stumbled” onto your blog. As someone who is strongly pro-life and strongly-NOT-a-Republican I’ve felt like I’ve been wandering the empty center alone. Thanks for the wisdom you share here.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks Carol and welcome. As pro life Democrats, we have our work cut out for us.