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In Twenty Years . . . Why Democrat Leaders Turned On Their Heels Against Pro-Lifers

December 4, 2018 Frontpage No Comments


Highly placed Catholic liberal Democrats were outraged when President Bill Clinton in April 1996 issued the first of what was to be two vetoes of congressional bills against repellent partial-birth abortion. His other stubborn veto came in October 1997.
The Slickster, as some foes called Clinton, insisted on the slaughter, and Catholic Democrats later learned to eat defeat with a shrug.
As the first of the two bills had proceeded on the legislative pathway from the House to the Senate, columnist George Will noted in his column in Newsweek on December 11, 1995, that 73 House Democrats voted for this pro-life bill.
In her opinion column in the April 14, 1996, Washington Post, just after the first of the two vetoes, politically liberal Catholic writer Mary McGrory said she happened to be at a party for the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal the night Clinton killed the bill. The liberal Catholics’ reaction, McGrory wrote, “was consternation, dismay, anger.”
McGrory wrote that the Commonweal editor, Margaret Steinfels, “defined the sense of betrayal” by commenting that, “Tonight, a liberal friend called me and said, ‘How can I possibly vote for him after this?’”
That year Clinton was facing the voters for his presidential re-election campaign. To his good fortune, his opponent was the amiably passive veteran Republican Sen. Bob Dole.
Closely identified with the politics and personalities of Boston’s Catholic John F. Kennedy generation, McGrory was a typical partisan liberal of her time. And she saw nothing to apologize for when she blasted pro-abortion Clinton for stabbing Catholic Democrats. Her column, headlined, “Clinton Vetoes Catholic Voters,” concluded that Clinton “let them down so hard.”
To McGrory, the Catholic focus seemed natural, even though partial-birth abortion was, as she described it, “a procedure so harrowing that even agnostics or pro-choice voters are repelled by it.”
The April 19, 1996, issue of Steinfels’ Commonweal magazine echoed with a cutting editorial titled, “Clinton’s choice.” It noted that the difference between partial-birth abortion and infanticide is only a matter of another inch or two or another minute in the delivery.
Although the 1996 legislation came out of “a very conservative Republican Congress…the bill passed with many Democratic votes,” Commonweal said, proceeding to ask:
“Here is the real quandary: Why does a procedure that can reasonably be called infanticide get so much support from pro-choice forces and from Bill Clinton?”
The editorial concluded that Clinton was guilty of a “grave failing.”
This wasn’t so far in the past, but only two decades later unrestricted abortion was held to be a basic requirement of Democratic Party belief. To think that even 13 House Democrats would vote for a vital pro-life bill in 2016 would be to imagine the impossible.
Major Democratic officials like Andrew Cuomo, Tom Perez, and Dick Durbin said there was no room in the party for pro-lifers — a declaration so bold that even pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi said it went too far.
Not that “Catholic” Pelosi was rejecting her own hardline pro-abortionism, but she didn’t want the remaining pro-life Democrats to go off voting for Republicans: You pro-lifers vote for our Dems, then we’ll ignore you for the rest of the time.
The very night after Dem presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stood up in debate in 2016 favoring even late abortions and appointing new justices to the Supreme Court who’d protect massive abortion, she publicly broke bread with meek and jovial Timothy Cardinal Dolan at the New York Al Smith dinner in October, shortly before that November’s election.
While Catholic leaders in the secular political world of 1996 viewed Bill Clinton’s abortion fanaticism with “consternation, dismay, anger,” one of the nation’s top Catholic prelates in 2016 didn’t even peep in public protest against the pro-abortion fanatic seated just next to him in the dinner spotlight. Such Catholics had crumpled their conscience and thrown in the towel.
For Democrats to whom being pro-life still mattered, there was Democrats for Life of America (, but party leaders seemed to regard them as no more than a minor irritant, while the party would engage in any atrocity imaginable that Planned Parenthood demanded.
What had happened in those 20 years? A constant propaganda pounding was one factor. Major media regarded as the Democrats’ friends promoted radical pro-abortionism as a pressing priority.
And on the left, it long has been the view that there are no enemies to one’s left. Those more liberal than oneself can be trusted, and probably have the higher moral ground. Can’t hurt to capitulate to them. Keeping peace under one roof in a household has led to more than one unfortunate surrender.
What looks like “keeping peace” to one person, though, might be more like cowardice and abnegation to another.
Also, as pro-abortion activists purged party pro-lifers, they sometimes didn’t encounter that much resistance, especially when many Dems decided their party had left them behind, so they left it behind as a result, becoming Republicans or independents. That’s why Democrat leaders ever more desperately fought to bring millions of new voters into their ranks by any means from over the borders.
While being adamantly pro-abortion was entirely acceptable, pro-lifers were regarded as foolishly focused on one narrow issue. Yet, as veteran pro-life activist Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life ( said, “If a candidate who supported terrorism asked for your vote, would you say, ‘I disagree with you on terrorism, but where do you stand on other issues?’ I doubt it.”
Opposing permissive abortion wasn’t “a single issue”; pro-abortionism was a disqualifying issue.

A Liberal Cause

It’s also worth remembering that in its early days, the modern pro-life movement wasn’t like the rewriters of history would prefer that you think. They long have striven that as the years passed, liberals would shun pro-lifers as unworthy of their companionship.
Yet in his book Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade (Oxford University Press, 2016), historian Daniel K. Williams noted an orientation that would explain why liberal Catholic Democrats still could castigate Bill Clinton in 1996.
As I wrote in a book review in the hardcopy issue of The Wanderer dated for February 25, 2016: “Contrary to media myths that pro-lifers are reactionaries who sprouted to oppose women’s newly court-granted (abortion) freedom, Williams writes, the early pro-lifers often were New Deal Democrats and liberals who regarded protection of the threatened unborn as a liberal, human-rights cause.”
Even a book review on January 9, 2016, in the strongly pro-abortion New York Times admitted Williams’ “stunning central claim: For much of its history, the fight to restrict abortion was a progressive cause.” It was a time when, the Times review said, “Democrats and the Black Panthers opposed abortion, and Ronald Reagan, like most conservatives, supported it.”
The review added later: “An ecumenical, liberal coalition of anti-abortion allies began to share fetal photographs, abortion videos and the tales of horrified nurses with legislators, and even some who had supported liberalization changed their minds. In 1971, in every single one of 25 legislative battles, attempts to broaden abortion’s legality were thwarted by activists fighting for ‘life’.”
But radical pro-abortionists don’t get all the credit for shoving pro-life policies out of the Democratic Party. Often major national Republicans including that party’s presidents had seemed reluctant or embarrassed at opposing permissive abortion, as if the pro-life cause is unworthy, and thus removed pressure from national Democrats to affirm being pro-life.
Perhaps the GOP’s Bob Dole is among the most disappointing. Dole said he hadn’t read the party platform produced for the 1996 Republican convention that nominated him as its presidential candidate. This was widely taken to mean that he was uninterested or ashamed about its social-conservative stands.
Moreover, only a few months earlier in 1996 Bill Clinton vetoed the partial-birth abortion bill, even shocking the liberal Catholics, but Dole dared not challenge Clinton over the atrocity as they faced off against each other for the White House.
By October 1996 syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, hardly a fire-breathing abortion foe, was despairing over Dole’s pallid campaign, saying, “Dole has utterly failed to articulate any challenge” on the issues. In a presidential debate where he could have brought up Clinton’s abortion veto, Krauthammer lamented, Dole had “nothing to say.
“Dole made no mention of partial-birth abortion,” Krauthammer continued, “a barbaric and medically unnecessarily procedure so close to infanticide . . . that it troubles vast numbers of even those who believe in legalized abortion. Partial-birth abortion survives in the United States solely because of Clinton’s veto pen. Not a word.”
The two GOP presidents most willing to take an open stand for pro-life have been Ronald Reagan and, to an even greater and perhaps more sincere degree, Donald Trump.
This is possibly one of the foremost reasons that dominant, hysterically pro-abortion media loathe Trump so. But justice eventually triumphs over all, and even dominant media won’t be able to fast-talk their way past the Final Judge into the penthouse.

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