Tom Perez just said pro-life Americans are not welcome in the Democratic Party. He suggested they should surrender their U.S. passports, because they don’t belong in this country, either. Of course, he didn’t put it in exactly those terms. Politicians never speak clearly, out of the fear that someone might actually understand them. But the message resounded like a clarion bell. Here is what the chairman of the Democratic National Committee said this week about people like me:
“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable, and should not change city by city or state by state.”
It’s no surprise that pro-life Democrats have something in common with Moses: a familiarity with wandering in deserts. This has been the case since unforgiving amazons such as Cecile Richards placed their Mahnolo-Blahniked feet on the throat of the party and demanded full and uncompromised fealty from the membership. So far, they’ve gotten it, even though there have been notable renegades like Bob Casey Sr., a proud Pennsylvanian who wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power, and suffered the repercussions.
The shock comes from the fact that not only does the DNC chairman presume to evict 23 percent of the family from the homestead (because about one-quarter of the registered Democrats believe abortion should be illegal in virtually all circumstances). That is his right as the official voice of the party, even though it is a foolish thing to do. The real horror of his words is their breadth and depth, reaching as they do to delegitimize American citizens who disagree with his position on abortion.
To be fair, some Democrats have decided to push back somewhat against the truly terrifying statement of their mouthpiece. On “Meet the Press,” Nancy Pelosi said that “of course” a politician could be a Democrat and pro-life, and then promptly choked and had to be resuscitated on air. Sen. Bernie Sanders continued to show independence and guts and endorsed a pro-life Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha, Neb.
And then there is Sen. Bob Casey Jr., son of that great profile in courage, Gov. Bob Casey Sr. Sen. Casey has always described himself as “pro-life,” but has a less than convincing record in opposing abortion. I reached out to his office, asking for a reaction to Perez’s edict and this was the initial response I received: “Senator Casey is a pro-life Democrat - he supports women and children before and after birth. Senator Casey has a long record of advocating for women in the United States Senate, including providing access to contraception and funding for family planning services. He voted to confirm both Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court while opposing the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch. In the Senate, he passed into law the Pregnancy Assistance Fund which provides aid to pregnant women across the country. And Senator Casey has fought back against far right attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and cut family planning funding through Title X. Senator Casey has also been a tireless fighter for Medicaid and the WIC program which help women and children.”
OK, I thought, he opposed Gorsuch, supports Planned Parenthood and doesn’t like the “far right.” He’s also done a lot for the children who had the good luck to make it through the birth canal. Fair enough. But he still hadn’t told me whether I, a pro-life American, was in danger of being deported. So I persisted, and this is what I got:
“Senator Casey believes the Democratic Party has always been a diverse and inclusive party and wants it to remain that way.”
Good for him. He needs to tell that to his party chairman.
In fact, he needs to tell that to all of the people out there who think it’s fine to ridicule those of us who are publicly and passionately opposed to abortion on demand. In particular, he might want to send a note to Samantha Pinto, a woman from South Philadelphia who was turning 25 and decided to celebrate by holding a party where she bashed in the head of our other Pennsylvania senator, Pat Toomey. Now, of course, Samantha didn’t really attack the senator. She just ordered up a piñata designed to replicate his head, and then whacked at it, as did her other party guests. The event was detailed on Billy Penn, which bills itself as “a mobile-first platform designed to connect citizens to relevant news and information about Philadelphia, and to drive civic engagement via affinity groups and events.”
That sounds nice. But I wondered how writing an article about an event where a bunch of party gals started hacking away at a replica of a senator was “relevant news,” much less how it drove “civic engagement.” And then it dawned on me: abortion. Pinto must have ordered up the Toomey piñata because she hates the Republican senator’s position on abortion.
I contacted Billy Penn editor Chris Krewson and wanted to know whether he’d reached out to Toomey’s office for some balance. He responded in an email: “As Sen. Toomey is a public figure, we did not reach out to his office any more than we would not have reached out to Hillary Clinton’s “camp” if we decided to write about Philadelphians wearing “Hillary for Prison” t-shirts, for instance.”
I get the public figure part. But wearing a T-shirt with a marginally offensive slogan is, I would argue, different from bashing a replica of a senator’s head because he believes in the sanctity of life.
But that’s just me. I’m a pro-life American, and I think people who defend the civil and human rights of the unborn deserve respect, not ridicule or harassment. If Perez and his fellow travelers had their way, I’d be expressing that opinion in a foreign language.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.