Monday, March 27, 2017
So argues Thomas Groome in today's New York Times. He writes:
By tradition and by our church’s teaching on social justice, many Catholics could readily return to voting reliably Democratic. But for this to happen, their moral concerns regarding abortion must get a hearing within the party, rather than being summarily dismissed. How might that happen?
To begin with, Democratic politicians should publicly acknowledge that abortion is an issue of profound moral and religious concern. As a candidate, Barack Obama did just that in a 2008 interview, saying, “Those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it.”
Democrats should not threaten to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funds to be used for abortion except in extreme circumstances. They could also champion an aggressive program to promote adoption by strengthening the Adoption Assistance Act of 1980 and streamlining adoption procedures. The regulations in many states seem designed to discourage it.
Democratic politicians should also continue to frame their efforts to improve health and social services as a way to decrease abortions. The abortion rate dropped 21 percent from 2009 to 2014. That downward trend would most likely end if Republicans eliminate contraception services provided through the Affordable Care Act.
As I see it, these called-for developments -- while they would be welcome -- would not really do much to change the minds of those who regard, perhaps with regret, the Democratic Party as "the Abortion Party." The first proposal -- "acknowledge that abortion is a matter of profound . . . concern" -- is obviously sound, but it need not be accompanied by any changes in platform or policy. The second -- don't repeal the Hyde Amendment -- is also welcome, but it really involves simply maintaining a 40-year status quo. And the final one -- "continue to frame efforts" -- is about messaging, not policy. It seems to me that what could make a difference (but is very unlikely to happen, given the political givens) would be if the Democrats decided that their positions on abortion should roughly track those of the population as a whole.