I have often said I am pro-life first, before any loyalties to a particular political party. As an illustration, I sometimes tell people that if a pro-life Democrat were running against a pro-choice Republican, I would vote Democrat. The problem is, I've never been given the chance.
I know there are Democrats out there who are ardently pro-life and believe they can change the party from the inside. A guy I was friends with in college falls into this category, in fact. I wish him luck. However, it seems that anyone who desires to advance within the party must first check his or her pro-life beliefs at the door.
One example comes from here in Colorado. In 2006, The Los Angeles Times reported that "local abortion rights activists [were] despondent" because their only choice against pro-life, Catholic Republican Bob Beauprez was self-described pro-life, Catholic Democrat Bill Ritter. Well, it turns out that they really had no reason to fear for their agenda.
As former Colorado State Treasurer Mark Hillman pointed out just over a year ago, "Ritter restored state funding for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains; signed legislation that requires all Roman Catholic hospitals to distribute emergency contraception to rape survivors; said he will not seek to appoint judges who oppose abortion rights; and has 'no antiabortion legislation on his agenda.'" Noting Ritter's propensity for trying to come down on both sides of the fence on other matters (such as labor issues) Hillman notes, "Once a politician trades for political gain what he knows to be right on an issue as fundamental as human life, it's hard to imagine anything he won't compromise. With no discernible core beliefs - except the desire to be governor - Ritter is understandably indecisive."
Another example comes from a column by Colman McCarthy in The Washington Post during the 1988 presidential campaign. McCarthy describes a hypothetical confrontation between the Jesse Jackson of 1977 -who was an ardent spokesman for the rights of the unborn- and the Jesse Jackson of 1988, who had turned 180 degrees away from his prior beliefs in just over a decade. "Jackson of 1988," McCarthy wrote, "[said] abortion is acceptable because ''it is not right to impose private, religious and moral positions on public policy.'" But the 1977 Jackson would have responded, according to McCarthy, how he had previously written about those who justify legalized abortion based on privacy: "That was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore outside your right to be concerned."
Perhaps the most timely example of this kind of hypocrisy comes from a letter written in 1971. It says, in part:
While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. (source)
The author of that letter, Senator Ted Kennedy, died this past week with ratings of 100% each in 2008 from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. Kennedy's salvation is certainly between him and God. I hope he, as a practicing Catholic, took the opportunity to make a good confession before he died, and be reconciled with God and his Church. But it breaks my heart to think about how this country could have been different if he had spent his 47 years in the Senate defending life, rather than worrying about what groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood thought of him.