Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg declined to shift away from the official Democratic stance on abortion when questioned by a pro-life Democrat voter during a town hall over the weekend.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, told Buttigieg that she’s proud to be a pro-life Democrat.
“Do you want the support of pro-life Democrats, pro-life Democratic voters? There are about 21 million of us. And if so, would you support more moderate platform language in the Democratic Party to ensure that the party of diversity, of inclusion, really does include everybody?” she asked the 2020 contender during a Fox News town hall on Jan. 26.
Buttigieg said he wanted Day’s vote but didn’t want to get it by “tricking” her.
“I am pro-choice. And I believe that a woman ought to be able to make that decision,” he said.
“The best that I can offer—and it may win your vote and, if not, I understand—the best I can offer is that if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. And in my view, it’s the woman who’s faced with that decision in her own life.”
Day said she wasn’t satisfied with Buttigieg’s answer because he didn’t answer the second part.
She said, “The Democratic platform contains language that basically says that we don’t belong, we have no part in the party, because it says abortion should be legal up to nine months, the government should pay for it, and there’s nothing that says that people who have a diversity of views on this issue should be included in the party.”
Day noted that the Democrat Party used to be more open to pro-life voters and asked Buttigieg again if he would be open to a shift in the official party stance.
“I support the position of my party that this kind of medical care needs to be available to everyone. And I support the Roe vs. Wade framework that holds that early in pregnancy there are very few restrictions, and late in pregnancy there are very few exceptions. And again, the best I can offer is that we may disagree on that very important issue, and hopefully we will be able to partner on other issues,” he said.
Democrats have shifted from a line popularized by President Bill Clinton—that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare”—to “safe and legal abortion.”
“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion,” the party’s 2016 platform states.
Most of the party’s presidential contenders support abortion even in the third trimester, which surveys show is opposed by about four out of every five Americans. Among questions sent to candidates by The New York Times last year was one that asked whether “opponents of abortion rights” should be welcomed as members of the party. A number of candidates indicated no.
Buttigieg signaled he doesn’t think of pro-life Americans as Democrats.
“Democrats believe every person has the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health and about their body,” he said in response to the question.
Buttigieg’s comments earned support from pro-abortion groups.
“Anyone, regardless of personal beliefs is and always has been welcome in the party as long as they are not trying to exert control over others, with massive damaging effect. Pete said as much in his answer,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said on Twitter.
“Pete’s answers—and Pete—were spot on. I applaud him. Values-based and unwavering. His is an honest attempt to win people over to a pro-choice position. It’s important bc we’re literally in a crisis, and too often, it’s invisible unless our candidates shine a light on it,” she wrote.
There was pushback from pro-life groups.
“Doubling down on abortion extremism, last night Mayor Buttigieg could not identify a single instance where he would limit abortion, or even acknowledge room for debate on the issue within the Democratic Party. This is a mistake. Recent polling shows 44 percent of rank-and-file Democrats want to vote for a candidate who supports common-ground limits on abortion,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.
“The modern Democratic Party is the party of abortion on demand through birth, paid for by taxpayers, and even infanticide. President Trump, in stark contrast, has championed popular legislation to stop late-term abortion and protect babies who survive abortions. The choice for voters is clear. Only one candidate will uphold the compassionate consensus of the American people when it comes to abortion: President Donald Trump.”