It might have sounded shocking, but John Kerry isn't alone in taking a new look at how the party is handling the explosive topic of abortion. As Democratic strategists and lawmakers quietly discuss how to straddle the nation's Red-Blue divide, abortion has become a prime target. "The issue and the message need to be completely rethought," says one strategist. Along with gay marriage, abortion is at the epicenter of the culture wars, another example used by Republicans to highlight the Democrats' supposed moral relativism. Polls show that most Americans support legal abortion, yet they also favor some restrictions, particularly after the first trimester. Strategists say that's where many Democrats are, too—the public just doesn't know it. With pro-life Sen. Harry Reid newly installed as Senate minority leader, Democrats are eager to show off their big tent. ...
Democratic lawmakers have found themselves boxed in by a pro-choice orthodoxy that fears the slippery slope—the idea that allowing even the smallest limitation on abortion only paves the way for outlawing it altogether. As a result, most Democrats opposed popular measures like "Laci and Conner's Law"—which makes it a separate federal crime to kill a fetus—and a ban on the gruesome procedure called partial-birth abortion.
A small group of pro-choice Democrats—mostly from Red States—bucked that trend, voting for one or both measures. Still, the issue is so thorny that nearly every lawmaker contacted by NEWSWEEK declined to discuss those votes or the topic in general. But a handful of those senators—including Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh—have joined a new progressive advocacy group, Third Way, that hopes to move the party to the center on a number of cultural issues, including abortion. The effort is headed by a team of strategists who helped the Dems find middle ground on gun safety.
Make no mistake -- the Dems are pulling back because they're losing votes over abortion, one of the most emotional and powerful issues of our generation. This is how two-party democracy works folks, so take note of the system in action.
It won't be easy for the Democrats to extricate themselves from their allegiance to the abortion industry, but they won't have much choice since the trends are clearly against them. And yes, my eventual goal is to prohibit nearly all abortions -- not by hijacking the courts as the left is so fond of doing, but by convincing people and going through the democratic process.