Platform proposal on Hyde Amendment challenged by Pro-Life Democrats

Pro-life supporters pray at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court June 27 during protests in Washington. In a 5-3 vote that day, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA) Pro-life supporters pray at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court June 27 during protests in Washington. In a 5-3 vote that day, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

In an interview with America last September, Vice President Joe Biden said that pro-life people are "absolutely, positively" welcome in the Democratic Party. Some may be wondering, however, as the party prepares its 2016 platform for November. Though the proposed platform this election cycle includes a call for an end to the death penalty that pro-life Democrats would cheer, it also for the first time seeks to overturn federal rules that prohibit tax dollars from funding abortion.

“We believe unequivocally that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states a draft of the party platform released Friday.

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The draft, which will be voted on later this month at the party’s convention in Philadelphia, echoes calls from presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to overturn the so-called Hyde Amendment. The rule, first introduced in 1976 by Republican Congressman Henry Hyde, a Catholic, bars Medicaid from funding most abortions.

“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” the draft reads.

The draft platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. foreign aid from being used to fund abortions.

Some Catholic leaders active in Democratic politics reacted to the change with dismay.

“The platform is less welcoming to pro-life Democrats and Catholic progressives than the platforms in 2008 and 2012,” Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America and a co-chair of the group Catholics for Obama, tweeted Monday.

Sister Simone Campbell, head of NETWORK and a speaker at the 2012 Democratic Convention, called the abortion proposal “a political mistake and a policy mistake.”

“It’s a political mistake because some I know in the Democratic Party think it’s not possible to lose this election, and quite frankly, traveling around the country, I’ve come to another conclusion: that it is possible and this is not the time to move your agenda to the far left,” she said.

Campbell told America that the party should remain a “big tent” and “welcome people in and not push people out.” She said the Hyde Amendment is “the best thing that we have to ensure a value of life in federal funding” and that it’s allowed “various perspectives to flourish in our society.” She said she is hopeful party leaders will alter the language around abortion before the platform committee meets this weekend in Florida.

Christopher Hale, head of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the language a “disservice” to Democrats who disagree about life issues, invoking Vice President Biden’s call to make the party “a big tent.”

The platform, Hale said, “belittles the 21 million Americans who proudly identify as Democrats but disagree with the party’s stance on beginning and end-of-life issues. The party should listen to Joe Biden and ensure pro-life Americans are welcomed in the Democratic Party.”

Another activist, Steve Krueger, said he found the draft platform to be “one of the least faith-friendly abortion planks that the Democratic Party has ever considered.”

Krueger, president of Catholic Democrats, said he looked at party platforms going back to 1976 and found nuance around abortion lacking in the 2016 draft. He said the language was problematic, saying it didn’t reflect the reality that many Americans simultaneously support legal abortion access while having moral qualms about its widespread use.

“What kind of relationship is the Democratic Party going to form with people of faith and faith communities? How much room is there in the Democratic Party for people of faith to bring their views into the party and how sensitive will the party be to those constituencies?” he asked.

The Hyde and Helms Amendments are not permanent laws, but rather perennial amendments attached to federal spending bills. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on lawmakers to pass a law prohibiting the use of taxpayer money for abortion.

When it comes to the death penalty, the draft platform calls for an end to capital punishment, a position that would put the party to the left of its presumptive nominee.

“We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment,” the draft reads. “It has no place in the United States of America.”

In an October speech at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College, Clinton said that the death penalty has been “too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way” but stopped short of saying she opposed it.

“I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states,” she continued.

Clinton’s onetime rival for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, has not yet conceded, vowing to bring a fight to the convention floor unless the platform pays attention to progressive causes, especially economic issues. Democrats meet July 25-28 in Philadelphia where they will vote on the final platform.

Michael O'Loughlinis America's national correspondent.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
What all these people are overlooking (or purposely ignoring) is that reproductive rights are unequivocally tied to women's rights. You can't doom women's access to abortion while at the same time being the party that stands up for women's civil rights. This is why, even if there are some pro-life Democrats, the Democratic platform will never be pro-life. With the chance for the very first time to have a woman as president, a woman who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, there is no way that the pro-life agenda will influence the platform on abortion. And that's as it should be.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
I agree. The Hillary Clinton death cult in the Democrat party is firmly on the side of radical abortion positions. Being completely consistent on international affairs and her past war crimes in Libya and Syria, she is uncommitted on matters of international peace in order to start new imperial wars around the globe. Meanwhile, her detractors are fixated on her incompetent use of classified information on a private server. How childish!
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
The "radical abortion positions" are actually just the law of the land, supported again a couple of weeks ago by our Supreme Court. If there's a fringe position here, it is that of the anti-abortion movement.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
The most immoral of actions can be legal. I find the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church to be far more consistent than the rulings of the Supreme Court. An example? In 1857, when the rest of the civilized world had banned slavery, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision (Dred Scott v. Sandford), that slavery was legal and that moral objections of some citizens should not hinder the "liberty" of slave owners. Is it not striking how similar the language used then resembled that of the nefarious Roe v. Wade? Did such a clear vote settle anything permanently? Only the bloody Civil War put en end to such evil, although it was not directly fought over the liberation of the "negro African race", as the SC referred to the slaves. A more recent example of legalized immorality would be the invasion of Iraq in 2003, for which your much beloved Hillary voted IN FAVOR of. Congress passed a resolution based on lies George W. Bush fabricated, but under U.S. law the war was "legal". Sure enough, disaster ensued that lasts to these days.
Eugene Fitzpatrick
1 year 4 months ago
Kudos to Carlos Orozco for the intelligent commentaries that he has submitted relative to this America article. I might add that the Clinton/Trump support for Israel's multi-decade barbarism towards the Palestinian people is an extremely important clue to the squalid ethical makeup of both these individuals. Indeed, Americans need to break free of the "lesser evil" concept when voting and adopt "a plague on both their houses" stance.
J Scanlon
1 year 4 months ago
Slavery, too, was a legal and Constitutional position. Actually, it's basis in 'law' was foundational, from the very beginning of our National experience. Abortion was man (yes, 7-2 vote in WADE by men) made. It's a hoax in any realistic philosophical ontology.
J Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago
It will be interesting to see how the editors spin the Hillary email issue now that it is a non-issue. It must be tough to endorse someone who is let off of criminal charges because of incompetence and laziness or was it selfishness.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago
Democrats try to assuage their consciences by focusing on opposition to the death penalty as some kind of balance to the rabid pro-death positions on abortion and euthanasia. Here are some numbers to awaken their consciences from their uneasy slumber: 2014 Executions: 35 (for 49 combined murders). 17 Median years from sentence to execution. (there were 28 executions in 2015). 2014 Murders: 14,249 (down from 18,780 in 1976, when capital punishment restarted) 2012 Abortions (or Physician-Assisted Murder): 699,202 reported to CDC (164,000 after 12 weeks) Euthanasia (or Physician-Assisted Suicide): Hard to find US nos. It was 9% of all deaths in Holland way back in 1990 and 61% did not know they were being killed (even though 27% of these elderly were fully mentally competent). http://healthresearchfunding.org/physician-assisted-suicide-statistics/
Kevin Murphy
1 year 4 months ago
I can't believe anyone actually believed Biden. Abortion is the Democratic Party's Northern Star. It will never change, and Biden never had a backbone to stand against it.
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
*** “What kind of relationship is the Democratic Party going to form with people of faith and faith communities? How much room is there in the Democratic Party for people of faith to bring their views into the party and how sensitive will the party be to those constituencies?”*** This is another example of the misleading nature of this post. The idea is put forth that people of faith are all anti-choice. That is certainly not true. A majority of lay Catholics are pro-choice. Many other Christians are also pro-choice, including Hillary Clinton and President Obama. An example is the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) ... "We are very pleased with today’s decision. It is a vitally important judicial affirmation of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices and to access abortion care. At the same time, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is deeply concerned about the future of reproductive freedom because on these issues the extreme religious and moral views of the religious right have dominated America’s public debate ..." http://religionnews.com/2016/06/27/statement-of-the-religious-coalition-for-reproductive-choice-on-decision-in-whole-womans-health-v-hellerstedt-case/
Kevin Murphy
1 year 4 months ago
You believe that Jesus would have approved of the dismemberment of innocent children in the womb? When one goes before God for judgement, I don't believe "polls supported my position" is going to help.
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
I don't know what Jesus thought about abortion since he never addressed it. But in the gospel stories he seemed to be a friend to women and he always tried to help them, not punish them. Given this and the stance that Judaism has about abortion, I don't think we can take for granted that he would consider it murder in every instance.
Dimitri Cavalli
1 year 4 months ago
Crystal, The Didache, the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, which has been traced to the early First Century, condemned abortion. (So did Vatican II.) Yes, Christ helped women and men--above all by telling them not to sin.
Dimitri Cavalli
1 year 4 months ago
As a "person of faith," Crystal, perhaps you can give us your opinion if unborn children/or fetuses have souls. When does the soul enter the physical body: conception, a few months, birth, or when the mother decides to keep the child? You were a "fetus" yourself once upon a time, and the life abortion stopped could have been yours.
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
1 year 4 months ago
How do you justify the killing of living "souls" that has resulted from a Republican president's demand to start an immoral war in Iraq, justified by blatant lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction? This action led to the rise of ISIS and the killing of massive numbers of civilians--Christians and non-Christians alike--and an enormous refugee problem that has caused untold suffering and destabilized the world order. It is much easier for the Catholic Church to single out abortion as a sin beyond all others because abortion is a reproductive issue uniquely associated with women. Republican men who create wars that kill even more people are let off the hook and can hypocritically proclaim themselves "pro-life." This is a scandalous politicization of "life" issues that reflects the Church's deeply misogynistic culture that should be rejected by all thinking Catholics.
J Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago
justified by blatant lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction?
You mean the lies that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were telling as well as the lies from several other Democrats exposed to the intelligence? You use the word "Prof" after your name, does that mean you are an academic committed to finding and telling the truth?
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
1 year 4 months ago
Are you suggesting that one lie justifies another?
J Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago
No, I am suggesting there were no lies. And what are statements saying there were lies when there was no lying? Are they lies? mis-statments? misunderstandings? Also to misrepresent what has happened without failing to investigate it thoroughly is what?
Andrew Russell
1 year 4 months ago
When Representative Bart Stupak, Dem. from Mich. 1st District extracted an Executive order from the Pres. to not fund abortions as part of the ACA, he was criticized by both the pro-life movement, and many Democrats. For those of us in the Church who are both pro-life and pro-social justice there seems to be no party or political action group in which we would be welcome.
Robert O'Connell
1 year 4 months ago
The idea of decriminalizing abortion is one thing. That all taxpayers should be required to contribute to the payment for an abortion is another, especially when the right to an abortion is established by a court rather than the elected representatives of he people. The women that have an abortion are making their own decision. They are profoundly different than the people that want political platforms effectively calling for those of us who view abortion as a grave evil to pay for abortions. Such Democrats are trying to impose a killing process on us. That strikes me as worse than condoning the Mafia, building a wall at our borders, the death penalty as administered in our country or even deporting undocumented residents.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 4 months ago
Robert - the whole idea of the abortion advocates is to force our participation to desensitize us to the killing. That is why the ACLU and Planned Parenthood fight any conscience clause with respect to pharmacists, doctors, nurses, churches, insurance companies, etc. etc. And the Democrats and their media allies are always trying through laws to force us all to pay for it. Here is the latest example - opposition to giving aborted babies a decent burial: https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2016/07/07/burying-aborted-children-witness-history/
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
The point of it is helping poor women.
J Scanlon
1 year 4 months ago
For a very long time I have wondered about what it would take to make the Democrat Party prolife on abortion. Were that to happen Wade's (and its related decisions) would be either abolished or amended to a significantly reduced level. Concretely, the advocates for abortion have had the controlling position within the Party. Edward Kennedy was converted to being favorable to abortion rights, both of the Cuomos have not been favorable to prolife on abortion, and other Catholic leaders (e.g., Rep. Pelosi, DSHS Sec. Sebelius) follow suit. So just how is this impasse to be overcome?
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
1 year 4 months ago
Are the editors also writing a similar editorial about the Republican party? Republicans consistently oppose gun control, defend the death penalty, and support immigration restriction. They reflexively support warmongering abroad. Their presumptive presidential nominee is a racist. The better question is: Is there room in the Republican party for pro-life Republicans?
Gino Dalpiaz
1 year 4 months ago
Right now we're talking about abortions, the killing of unborn babies, Rosmari. Trump is not a racist, you are.
Rosemari Zagarri Prof
1 year 4 months ago
Non sequitur.
Gino Dalpiaz
1 year 4 months ago
LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME TO ME.... I do know that Jesus loved children and played with them and wouldn’t want anyone to kill them, not even while still nestling in their mother’s womb.
Robert Koch
1 year 4 months ago
Crystal Watson you write to help poor women. Help them to do what? - murder their babies?
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
Help them to have access to all legal medical options.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
“It’s a political mistake because some I know in the Democratic Party think it’s not possible to lose this election, and quite frankly, traveling around the country, I’ve come to another conclusion: that it is possible and this is not the time to move your agenda to the far left...” Sister Simone Campbell, Speaker at the 2012 Democratic Convention So, the real problem, according to Sister Simone, is not that the Hillary death cult wants government to fund abortions, but that the moral issue might create divisions within the Democratic party. Yes, this election is too important for Donald Trump to be elected the next president. But, it is also too important for Hillary Clinton to be the next president. With the worst presidential candidates in American history, why are Catholics still clinging to the two-party system? What are they waiting for to BREAK FREE from this conditioning, this freak circus? What would Jesus say of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Not nice words, that's for sure. So why fight for any of the two devils?
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
"Devils". And the pro-life movement wonders why most people consider them to be religious nuts.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
Devils in a Dostoyevskian sense. As in possessed... And that also goes for Trump. To be "nuts" is to support a promoter of wars and partial-birth abortion. A lying, hypocritical, crooked politician that has aided and given political cover to religious head-choppers in order to destabilize an entire region of the globe. Christians in the ME are witnesses to such an evil.
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
I think she's a good person who will make a good president. She's been a church-going Methodist all her life - here's a recent article in The Atlantic - "Hillary Clinton: Longtime Christian" ... http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/hillary-clinton-trump-christian/488186/ ... she's not a devil, she's just a fallible human being like the rest of us.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
If she goes or not to Church does not erase the reality of her crimes. At the end of the day, what you and I think of her is completely irrelevant. The FACTS are what they are.
Bill Collier
1 year 4 months ago
While the New Testament doesn’t directly address the issue of abortion, there is at least one poignant in utero reference that highlights the undeniable humanity of the fetus. Luke 1: 36-44 recounts the Annunciation and the Angel Gabriel’s news to Mary that her kinswoman Elizabeth had conceived in her old age a son (the future John the Baptist and cousin of Jesus) and that Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary traveled to visit Elizabeth, and when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she told Mary that when she had heard her voice the baby in her womb leaped for joy. As noted earlier, the Didache, dated by many scholars to the first century and comprised of teachings of the Apostles, stated in no uncertain terms: “[D]o not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” As for abortion being exclusively a women’s issue, I think the better focus should be on what can be done for both mother and child. Serrin Foster, the president of Feminists for Life, cogently set forth this argument in a January 2015 article in America: http://americamagazine.org/issue/feminist-case-against-abortion In addition, noted pro-life feminist Sidney Callahan made a similar argument in a well-known essay: “Abortion and the Sexual Agenda: A Case for Prolife Feminism”. http://www.angelfire.com/ego/staples009/images/15.htm One takeaway: “[Pro-choice feminists] should look rather to their own elitist acceptance of male models of sex and to the sad picture they present of women’s lives. Pitting women against their own offspring is not only morally offensive, it is psychologically and politically destructive.”
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
The Feminists For Life are not feminists by any stretch of the imagination. They are pro-choice political conservatives, usually Republicans, who happen to also be women. Examples range from Sarah Palin to the wife of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. Their agenda is to take away choices from women, to limit women's health care options - how is that feminist? At the end of the day, they are just pro-life advocates with arguments no more winning than the rest of the movement.
Bill Collier
1 year 4 months ago
That's quite a broad brush characterization, Crystal! FFL draws members from across the political spectrum, and their philosophy of seeking to find solutions that benefit BOTH the mother and the child is hardly the "tak[ing] away [of] choices from women," or the seeking of ways "to limit women's health care options." Your definition of feminist is a decidedly narrow one, imho. And what about Sidney Callahan? She's a card-carrying liberal and so-called Commonweal Catholic. What dogmas of "feminism" has Dr. Callahan allegedly violated?
Crystal Watson
1 year 4 months ago
I've only read a few of Ms. Callahan's articles so I can't comment on her beyond that sentence you posted, in which she manages to insult both men and women ... *** “[Pro-choice feminists] should look rather to their own elitist acceptance of male models of sex and to the sad picture they present of women’s lives.”*** FFL is certainly not feminist because they do not respect women's ability to make reasonable decisions as moral agents about their own bodies. FFL wants to criminalize abortion, even for rape and incest victims, and there is no other way to see that then as the taking away of what is now a legal right of women to choose what to do.
Carlos Orozco
1 year 4 months ago
Since we are discussing matters of life and death, it will be interesting to learn what the Democrat platform has to say on imperial warfare, specifically on Syria, Ukraine and Russia. In an oddity of this election cycle, the most hawkish of the two crooked candidates is the Democrat.

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