Politics & Government

Party’s abortion stance means electoral doom, predicts Democrat at March for Life

Does pro-life mean pro-Trump?

Thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered Friday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. While the diverse pro-life crowd was excited about the new administration and the prospects of eventually overturning Roe
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Thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered Friday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. While the diverse pro-life crowd was excited about the new administration and the prospects of eventually overturning Roe

Kristen Day, a self-described “pro-life” Democrat, said she didn’t feel welcome at last week’s Women’s March on Washington.

“I’m usually the most hated woman in the room wherever I go, whether it’s a Democratic group or a pro-life group,” Day said. “It was really a sad experience to go to the feminist march and be told I don’t belong there.”

Friday, Day made sure she was on hand during the March for Life in Washington. She was one of a few dozen secular abortion opponents marching alongside hundreds of conservative religious groups.

Day, a 47-year-old Virginia resident, is the executive director of Democrats for Life of America, a group with chapters in 13 states.

“I got a lot of messages during the campaign saying, ‘I can’t vote for her,’ ” Day said, referring to Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee.

She argued that Clinton’s loss in traditionally Democratic states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin was due in part to the candidate’s decision to unequivocally support Roe v. Wade instead of supporting abortion only as a last resort – like former President Barack Obama did as a candidate in 2007. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision that disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortion.

“I will defend Roe v. Wade,” Clinton said during the final presidential debate in October, “and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.”

That passionate defense of Roe v. Wade, Day argued, will have disastrous implications in the 2018 midterm elections, when 23 Senate seats held by Democrats are up for re-election.

The most vulnerable Democrats include Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – all states where Trump beat Clinton by at least 19 percentage points.

“We’re in bad shape,” Day said. “Republicans are in full control of 32 state legislatures. I fear this next election we will have more losses.”

Day voted for Obama in 2008. She wrote in Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on the ballot in 2016 because Edwards opposes abortion.

“John Bel Edwards is my hero in the Democratic Party,” Day said. “He signed Medicaid expansion and supports life in all forms.”

Day, who served as chief of staff to former Democratic Rep. Jim Barcia of Michigan, is a strong supporter of Democrats like Edwards and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who oppose abortion.

Cuellar was one of three Democrats, along with Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, to vote with Republicans in favor of a bill to eliminate taxpayer funding of abortions this week.

Unlike many of the religious groups in attendance at Friday’s march, Day supports access to birth control and efforts to continue the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, in some form.

Unless something changes in the next 18 months, Day argued, Trump’s victory in her home state of Michigan will embolden working-class and religious Democrats to switch parties, further damaging progress on issues like paid maternity leave and LGBTQ rights that are important to her.

“I thought Trump would win all along,” Day said. “Hillary didn’t visit Michigan, and Trump did.”

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty

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