The Silent Democratic Majority on Abortion
5/2/2019by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
What if I told you there’s an issue that unites a clear majority of Americans?
What if I told you that at least 60 percent of Independents, Republicans, and Democrats agree on that issue?
And what if I told you that the Democratic candidates for president are on the wrong side of that issue? That they’re out of step with the party – and the country – they want to lead?
That’s exactly the case with abortion.
With just nine months to go before the Iowa caucuses, Democratic hopefuls seem to be competing to embrace the most extreme position on abortion even though it alienates an overwhelming majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle. It is important to understand just how far Democratic candidates have strayed from public opinion – even among their own constituents.
After New York expanded access to late-term abortion even up to the moment of birth earlier this year, the Marist Poll – one of the country’s most respected surveys – found a broad consensus among the American people.
By about three-to-one, Americans oppose abortion after 20 weeks – or don’t want it at all. This includes about eight in 10 Republicans and independents and nearly six in 10 Democrats.
This survey also found that 80 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to at most the first three months of a pregnancy. This included nearly two-thirds of those identifying as pro-choice and a similar number of Democrats (64 percent). The poll was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.
Few issues command such massive majorities. The revulsion these proposals caused was bipartisan. But, while the polling showed that most Americans strongly opposed policies like those in New York and Virginia, Democratic presidential candidates appear to be doubling down on abortion.
It wasn’t always like this. The Democratic Party used to have pro-life candidates at every level. Even party leaders once spoke out against abortion often and forcefully.
Ted Kennedy once wrote that “abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life.”
In 1976, Sargent Shriver campaigned in the Iowa Caucuses on a pro-life platform, and Jimmy Carter won there, in part, because voters believed he too was pro-life.
And in 1981, Senator Joe Biden voted for the Hatch Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow States to again restrict abortion.
These examples prove an important point. Abortion should never have become a partisan issue. It would cease to be partisan if Democratic candidates who are pro-life, or at least support substantial abortion restrictions, stepped forward.
Given what the polling has revealed about attitudes toward abortion among Democrats, it seems obvious that a strong majority of Democrats, including Catholics and working-class voters, would have good reason to prefer a candidate who supports substantial restrictions on abortion.
It would be better for America – and for the unborn – if Democratic candidates listened to the electorate again. The majority of Democrats deserve representation and not exclusion of their point of view within their own party.
But that will never happen until the voters demand it.
The more than seven in 10 Americans – and six in 10 Democrats – who oppose late-term abortions should refuse to support any candidate who holds extreme abortion views. They need to speak out at town halls, at county dinners and anywhere else the candidates go.
It’s time to say that abortion isn’t a matter of party politics – it’s a matter of national consensus. The American people agree: Abortion should be a post-partisan issue. Only Democrats can make it one, starting in Iowa.
Carl Anderson is the Supreme Knight and CEO of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization.
This article was first published in the Des Moines Register