WaPo: You'll never guess which party is on the defensive over abortion

One party certainly deserves to be on the defensive over their rush to the extreme on abortion, especially this week. Give the Washington Post credit for pointing it out this morning. After hectoring Joe Biden into a series of reversals over the broadly popular prohibition on federal funding of abortions, the Democratic Party has become hostile to any pro-life candidate and voter.

Now they are facing a potential revolt in states that Democrats need to defeat Donald Trump, Paul Kane reports:

Pelosi finds herself at the center of a growing debate about abortion rights, from a House race in Chicago to the 2020 presidential primary campaign. Next up is an effort to amend the spending bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services that contains the very antiabortion language that prompted former vice president Joe Biden to renounce more than four decades of beliefs on access to abortion.

It’s left some Democrats who oppose abortion rights, including Catholics in critically important Midwestern battlegrounds, feeling that party leaders are happy to have their support — as long as they keep quiet about their anti-choice views. …

Democrats did not expect to be on the defensive on this issue, certainly not after a spring filled with several conservative states approving controversial, Republican-led laws that imposed almost a complete ban on abortion. In some cases the new state laws did not even include exceptions for the health of the mother or for victims of rape or incest, drawing rebukes from President Trump and senior GOP congressional leaders.

When abortion rights activists pushed back, they ended up politically targeting Democrats, not just conservative Republicans who supported those extreme positions.

The Hillary Clinton – Tim Kaine ticket [see update below for nuance] made this mistake three years ago, marginalizing pro-life Democrats by demanding an end to the Hyde Amendment and all restrictions on abortions. The damage from going the full NARAL might have been somewhat obscured by Hillary’s terrible campaign, but Democrats might have to learn a hard lesson twice.

Furthermore, it’s not as if the public’s mind is changing on this point. The NPR/Marist poll this week showed plenty of nuance in the electorate on abortion, but it also showed that the Democrats’ absolutist litmus test on abortion policy appeals to only a small percentage (18%) of Americans. Gallup’s more extensive polling pegs the “abortion legal under any circumstances” segment of voters at 29%, more or less where it’s been at for a generation, and lower than it was prior to Casey. In every iteration of that polling, the “legal under any circumstance” portion of the respondents are eclipsed by the “legal only in a few circumstances” respondents; last year it was 29/35, with a middle group of “legal under most” garnering only 14%. Also in every iteration, respondents who want stricter controls on abortion edge out those who want less strict controls, although that’s gotten narrower in the last few years — perhaps the result of states trying to get stricter on abortion and getting closer to the electorate’s view of abortion limitations.

Rather than adapt to the voters on this issue, the Democrats have run to the extreme left on it and have begun attempts to cast out the abortion heretics. “We’ve become so intolerant,” former House Democrat Bart Stupak lamented to Kane. Stupak should know; he caved on a demand to incorporate the Hyde Amendment into ObamaCare as a statute to make its prohibition on federal funding for abortion permanent, after being promised that the party wouldn’t use the health-care law to bypass it. “They’ll take our money,” Stupak said, “but they can’t come to our events or help us out in our campaigns.”

Democrats may well regret allowing the progressives and so-called “Democratic Socialists” hijack their party — and not just on abortion. Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney tried warning the party’s California convention about the disaster of their embrace of Medicare for All and got booed off the stage. He tells Michael Smerconish this morning that they’re marching in lockstep right off a political cliff. And when even the Washington Post takes notice of that, maybe Democrats should start rethinking that direction.

Update: Senator Kaine’s office wrote me this afternoon to remind me that Kaine didn’t come out in opposition to the Hyde Amendment in 2016. That’s true, but his campaign also said this when he was challenged on partnering with Clinton and her agenda for eliminating Hyde:

Kaine’s anti-abortion stance has been a sticking point for many liberal Democrats concerned that he might work against Clinton on the issue. But Karen Finney, a senior Clinton campaign spokeswoman who is also working with Kaine, said he would keep his personal views but also support a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds for abortion.

“As Tim Kaine has said, while he supports the Hyde Amendment, he has also made it clear that he is fully committed to Hillary Clinton’s policy agenda, which he understands includes repeal of Hyde,” said Finney, who has previously worked as Clinton’s senior spokeswoman.

It would have been more accurate to state that Kaine supported Hillary’s end-Hyde agenda than that Kaine himself personally opposed Hyde. However, that’s  semantics; Kaine “fully committed” himself to the Hillary Clinton agenda, explicitly the “repeal” of Hyde. For precision’s sake, I’ve changed the text to read “The Hillary Clinton – Tim Kaine ticket …”

Update: This has nothing to do with Kaine, but as long as we’re being precise, let’s not forget that presidents don’t repeal amendments to budgets. This was a dumb argument in 2016’s presidential race, and it’s a dumb argument now. If Democrats want to run against the Hyde Amendment, then they should run for Congress, which passes it each year as a rider to the HHS budget.