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Democrats' realignment on abortion

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This extraordinary swing towards abortion came despite polling on the topic remaining fairly steady. No wonder the Democrats have become a coastal party. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The "Unity Tour" featuring Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez has revealed a seismic realignment in the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion. For the mere offense of campaigning with a candidate for mayor of Omaha, who had once expressed a scintilla of pro-life sentiment, Perez took a multi-day public lashing from the abortion lobby and was forced to issue a statement that said the candidate had been whipped into line and "now shares the Democratic Party's position on women's fundamental rights. Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same…. Period."

How's that for tolerance? Nancy Pelosi had a telling response when asked by Chuck Todd if you can still be a Democrat if you are pro-life. A hesitant "yes" was followed by, "I have served for many years in Congress with Members who have not shared my… position on promoting a woman's right to choose."

Note Pelosi's use of the past-tense. There was a time, not so long ago in the Clinton Administration, when 99 House Democrats voted for the Hyde Amendment to prohibit tax-funded abortion.

More recently, during the initial debate on Obamacare, 64 House Democrats voted to ban abortion from their own President's healthcare bill. This year's vote on the Hyde Amendment? Only three lonely Democrats voted yes. This represents a dramatic shift from about 40 percent to 25 percent, down to a measly 1.5 percent of Pelosi's colleagues willing to cast a pro-life vote.

No wonder she answered in the past tense. This extraordinary swing towards abortion came despite polling on the topic remaining fairly steady. No wonder the Democrats have become a coastal party. Is anyone still wondering about the cultural piece of the puzzle with working class voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, many of whom are Catholic? Take the dramatic example of the generational flip-flop in Pennsylvania.

Governor Bob Casey fought against Planned Parenthood all the way to the Supreme Court in the eponymous Planned Parenthood vs. Casey in 1992. Today his son, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) tweets the slogan "IStandWithPP" in support of tax-funding for the nation's largest chain of abortion clinics. Quite a contrast.

Examine the records of our two recent vice presidential tickets on the Democratic side, both of whom happen to be Catholic. Joe Biden remained opposed to tax-funding of abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Biden understood voters in Scranton, and tried to warn his party that Trump might actually win there.

But last year's VP nominee, Tim Kaine, had to sell out and sign up for the new Democratic Platform language in favor of tax-funded abortion in advance of the offer to be on the ticket. Kaine awkwardly flip-flopped all over the place before disavowing his past and endorsing the abortion lobby's agenda.

House Democrats will soon face another vote that will be perilous from an electoral standpoint — on late-term abortion. When this issue came up in the presidential debates, the contrast was stark between Clinton's unapologetic defense of late abortion and candidate Trump's very human and blunt description of it. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection bill would ban abortion past 5 months of pregnancy, the point at which 20-week babies are sucking their thumbs in ultrasound photos displayed proudly on their parents' refrigerators. They are also routinely given anesthesia during in-utero procedures due to their ability to feel pain.

Polling, especially among women, is overwhelming in support of this bill. Don't expect many Democrats to support it, though, most likely just the same lonely three. Last time Congress faced a vote on late-term abortion, almost half of the House Democrats voted pro-life. In the Senate, 16 Democrats voted for the pro-life bill to ban Partial-Birth Abortion, including Senators Reid, Daschle, Leahy and two Democratic women.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan defended his pro-life vote saying this type of abortion was "too close to infanticide." That's how the majority of voters see it too, and the Democratic Party and its allies would be wise to let up on the intolerance and refrain from throwing a very public tantrum over every mayoral candidate who makes a peep in support of life.

Maureen Ferguson is the Senior Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association.

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