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Endangered Species

The demise of the pro-life Democrat.

Apr 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 31 • By MARIA SANTOS
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In Cincinnati, the SBA List bought a billboard attacking Rep. Steve Driehaus, one of those 20. It read, “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.” Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, arguing the billboard violated a state law against making false claims about a candidate. Kristen Day and DFLA filed an affidavit in his support, stating Obamacare does not fund abortions. The ACLU intervened on the SBA List’s behalf, and a four-year legal battle was born.

Driehaus lost the election, and sued the SBA List for defamation and loss of livelihood. A judge ruled against him. Meanwhile the SBA List filed a suit against Ohio’s “False Statement Law,” arguing it violates the First Amendment. Their case was dismissed. The SBA List appealed, and now awaits a hearing from the Supreme Court this week.

Day paints this all as evidence that the pro-life movement is too partisan, and only concerned with electing Republicans. The SBA List will spend around $10 million this year on elections alone. Most of this will go to Republican candidates, although not all—Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois was one of their top recipients in 2013. Still, Day complains that they “hide” behind bipartisan labels, whereas her organization is upfront about what they are: a Democratic organization. “The pro-life Democrats who cast these votes are not making any friends within the party,” she says. “To have the pro-life community not support them either, I mean, these men and women who are casting these votes, they’re committed to this cause .  .  . they’re not doing it for any financial gain, any political gain.”

The pro-life movement has no regrets on pushing the Democrats who deserted Stupak out of office. “They had to be defeated,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List. “They were the linchpin, the final votes, the last holdouts. I was their advocate, I worked for them, I grieve this loss.” For the SBA List and other pro-life groups, Obamacare opened the door to taxpayer funding of abortions, and a betrayal on this issue was too serious to overlook.

Dannenfelser rejects Day’s claims that pro-life groups are partisan. She says there should be a strong, specifically Democratic pro-life organization. But she doesn’t think DFLA is it. “There’s nowhere else to go other than Kristen and the Democrats for Life, and that’s sad. It’s not a dynamic, disciplined, visionary organization.”

About 2010, Day says, “It was a bad time.” After the vote on Obamacare, a quarterly meeting for the pro-life organizations came up, a meeting she had attended every year with her children. The SBA List withdrew her invitation from the meeting. “Having people not talking to me any more, it was very difficult. But as an organization it did make us look at, well, who are our friends? Obviously it wasn’t them, if we have a disagreement on one issue and they’re so quick to say ‘we don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore.’ ”

Day shifted focus back to work within her own party. She says she’s happier now. “People never trusted me. .  .  . I actually feel more welcome in the Democratic party than I do in the pro-life movement.”

These days DFLA focuses on electing state representatives who oppose abortion, hoping that eventually they can change the party from the bottom up. Day has spent the past few years working with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to identify pro-life state representatives—she now has over 100 state members. This election cycle DFLA is backing eight candidates. They’ve also filed a case against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, and will keep lobbying to moderate the language on abortion in the party platform.

Day has high hopes of eventually changing the party platform, one state at a time. “Fortunately,” she says, “I’m an optimist.”

Maria Santos is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

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