The 28 percent of Democrats who oppose abortion have no place in the Democratic party, according to two of the party’s leading figures.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin echoed party chair Tom Perez Sunday in saying that there is no room in the party for dissent on the abortion issue.
“I am committed to women’s rights under the law, reproductive rights certainly, and our party is [committed],” Durbin said in an appearance on CNN. “We’ve made that part of our platform and position for a long, long time. I know within the ranks of the Democratic Party there are those who see that differently on a personal basis, but when it comes to the policy position, I think we need to be clear and unequivocal.”
Those who personally believe abortion is wrong can be allowed in the party, Durbin added, “as long as they are prepared to back the law, Roe versus Wade, prepared to back women’s rights as we’ve defined them under the law.” That is: all members of the Democratic party are expected to publicly support abortion, regardless of what they personally believe.
Perez, who has struggled to unify the moderate and far-left wings of the Democratic party, also demanded conformity from party members on the subject of abortion.
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement on Friday. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
Durbin and Perez’s disavowal of pro-life Democrats followed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders coming under fire for supporting a Democratic mayoral candidate in Nebraska who previously opposed abortion but later reversed his position under pressure from liberal activists.
Despite Durbin and Perez’s demands for ideological purity, a not-insignificant minority of the Democratic party is pro-life. Pew Research Center found last year that 28 percent of Democrats say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Hispanic voters — a key voting bloc for the Democratic party — are deeply divided on the subject of abortion. Pew found that 49 percent of Hispanics say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while 48 percent say it should be legal in most or all cases.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared to contradict Perez and Durbin on Sunday.
“Of course” Democrats can also be pro-life, Pelosi said on MSNBC. Pelosi quickly changed the subject, however, and did not address whether Democrats can support pro-life policies, in addition, to personally opposing abortion.
The 2016 Democratic party platform called for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal taxpayer dollars for abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Before 2016, no major party platform had called for taxpayer-funded abortions. (RELATED: Democratic Platform Calls For Taxpayer-Funded Abortions)