Shane Claiborne on Will the Real Pro-Life Political Party Please Stand Up?

A sign held during the 2017 March for Life in Washington. Photo by James McNellis/Creative Commons

Shane Claiborne is the author of “Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us.” The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


The presidential election is shaping up to be a tough one for those who see it literally as a matter of life and death.

The Democrats running for the White House all vow to take action on gun violence and police misconduct, health care, the environment and abolishing the death penalty. At the same time they consider the idea of an anti-abortion progressive an absurdity.

In New Hampshire last Sunday (Feb. 9), the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, said that “being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat” and vowed to nominate judges who would be 100% behind Roe v. Wade. One of his goals, he said, is to “codify” Roe into law and expand Planned Parenthood.

A few days earlier, Pete Buttigieg, pressed by Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, on whether the party might moderate its language to welcome folks who want to reduce the number of abortions, answered bluntly, “I’m not going to try to earn your vote by tricking you. I am pro-choice, and I believe that a woman ought to be able to make that decision.”

Meanwhile the Republican Party, which calls itself pro-life, has become an obstacle to life on any issue but abortion. Its current leader, Donald Trump, has become best known for putting children in cages or letting them die in detention while apart from their parents. His social welfare policies have put the more than 140 million Americans who live in poverty at risk.

But purely from a political viewpoint, it’s the Democrats who are the bigger puzzle. They seem to be doing everything they can to lose independent voters (like me) and Republican refugees — those voters Buttigieg calls “future former Republicans,” not to mention the 29% of Democrats — some 20 million people by some estimates —who call themselves pro-life. (Another 59% support at least some restrictions on abortion, according to Gallup.)

It’s little wonder that the Democratic candidate that was surging over the weekend, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, made headlines by taking a different angle. “I am strongly pro-choice,” she said. “I have always been pro-choice. But I believe we’re a big-tent party, and there are pro-life Democrats, and they are part of our party. I think we need to build a big tent. We need to bring people in instead of shutting them out.”

Not so long ago, “big tent” language on abortion was the official Democratic Party line. The platform of the Democratic National Committee said that abortion should be “legal, safe, and rare” and that we should all be working together to make it rarer and rarer. In my home state of Pennsylvania — one of the swing states that went for Trump in 2016 — this kind of rhetoric still draws voters, as Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey, who has won on a pro-life platform, can attest.

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Source: Religion News Service