The Atlantic

Is There Any Room in the 'Big Tent' for Pro-Life Democrats?

Conflicts over reproductive rights have raised questions about who the party will accept, and who it will reject, in its coalition.
Source: Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters

Democrats have become newly divided over reproductive rights as they attempt to decide who they will welcome, and who they will exclude, amid soul searching over how the party should rebuild after its 2016 loss.

Democratic leaders have tried to walk a fine line by emphasizing that the party stands for protecting women’s access to abortion, while signaling that there is still room for Democrats who oppose abortion. It’s not clear, however, whether and to what extent party leaders will tolerate any deviations, in either personal beliefs or policy stands, from full-throated support for the pro-abortion rights party platform.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently said the party is “strongly pro-choice,” but remains a “big-tent party,” while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “of course” it’s possible to be “pro-life” and a Democrat, and have the support of the Democratic Party. Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National committee, meanwhile is facing harsh criticism within the party for remarks widely interpreted as saying that Democrats who oppose abortion were not welcome in the party.

The question of where the party stands is a crucial one as Democrats seek to take back Congress and the White House. The American public remains divided on abortion, though a majority believe it should be legal in all or most cases. The Democratic party platform unambiguously states that women have a “right to safe and legal abortion” and promises that the party will oppose and work to overturn “laws and policies that impede

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