Opinion: Democratic Party can be pro-life, too

John Quinn

One of the best-kept secrets in American politics is that many Democrats — some surveys suggest as many as one in three — identify as pro-life. There's even a national organization of pro-life Democrats, I'm a member, and we're holding this year's national conference right here in Michigan this weekend.

Many Democrats, including most party leaders, don't seem to realize that pro-life principles are at the heart of what it means to be a Democrat. And many members of the Party of Trump believe, mistakenly, that theirs is the pro-life party. Let's try to clear up the confusion.

This April, 2019 photo provided by Sharp HealthCare in San Diego shows a baby named Saybie.

First of all, there's more to life than pregnancy and childbirth, although those wonders are certainly essential parts of human life. Policies that simply make it difficult for a woman to terminate her pregnancy if she wants to are not really pro-life. At best, they're pro-birth. To be truly pro-life you have to be "pro-life for the whole life," to use a phrase that's popular among us pro-life Democrats. That means we support policies that protect, cherish and honor every human life at all stages: policies that aim not only to preserve life before and after birth, but also to enable all of us to thrive and lead fulfilling, productive lives.

Another point: Being pro-life isn't about symbolism or gamesmanship. It's about real life. All those anti-abortion laws being passed by Republican-dominated legislatures are not going to save or improve a single human life. Those laws cannot take effect because, as their supporters know, they're unconstitutional under existing precedent. They're just a way of saying that Republicans want Roe v. Wade to go away, which we already knew. But even if Roe is overruled, we also know from long experience that outlawing abortion doesn't stop it. It just moves it underground.

If you really want to reduce the number of abortions, the Democratic Party has several proposals (and, when it's been in power has actually enacted some of them, with precious little help from the Republicans) to do just that. These proposals start with recognition that the mother-child bond is one of the most powerful forces in human nature. Women generally do not have abortions because they don't care about the babies in their wombs. They do it because they see no realistic alternative. They don't need to be coerced to carry their children to term. They need to be empowered.

So what are the policies that can empower pregnant women to give birth? They include things like paid parental leave before and after birth; high quality and affordable child care for those who need it to stay in school or work outside the home; excellent educational opportunities for all children and for their parents; and excellent healthcare for everyone, especially expectant mothers, new mothers and children. Such policies respect, honor and empower parents without regard to marital status, economic status, or how they became parents. They help parents nurture their children while continuing to develop their own talents and pursue their own ambitions.

People often ask us, How can you be Democrats if you're pro-life? The answer: We're Democrats because we're pro-life. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and some other leading Democrats understand that. We can only hope a majority of the party's leaders will soon realize you don't win elections by trying to exclude the hundreds of thousands of Democrats who support the party's agenda precisely because we are pro-life.

If you want to learn more about pro-life Democrats, stop by the national conference in East Lansing this weekend. You can find information at michdemsforlife.org.

John Quinn is a retired lawyer who lives in Detroit. He is a member of the Democrats for Life of America and a board member of Michigan Democrats for Life. The views expressed in this article are Mr. Quinn's and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization with with which he is affiliated.