I've been a committed Democrat since reaching adulthood. I was attracted to the party because of my perception that it was liberal, egalitarian and life-affirming. Although a rank-and-filer rather than a party bigwig, I've served as political appointee in Democratic administrations on state and federal levels. Moreover, in one hectic presidential election campaign, I worked directly for the Democratic National Committee on behalf of the presidential nominee.
But I have a problem with my party these days: I cannot reconcile its traditional liberalism, egalitarianism and life-affirming qualities with its current love affair with the nihilism of abortion.
Some of my fellow Democrats will no doubt ask: Why focus on such a divisive subject, when there are so many other issues to be considered? And why call abortion nihilism?
True, there are many other issues to be considered. But a political party's take on what is life, particularly human life, is kind of basic. And why do I equate abortion with nihilism? Simply because it snuffs out an ignited life, makes nothing out of a "being" that has begun.
Clearly, I'm not a woman, have not experienced the trauma of childbirth. But as a father, I've held newborns in my arms. Like other newborns, they were intent on ingestion, digestion and ejection. No instant Einsteins. Given life, they had grown, developed and been born. They would continue to grow and develop. Human life is a continuum with a beginning and an end. We are talking, with regard to abortion, about a being that is at an early stage in a living journey.
It's argued by some that respect for the pre-born is strictly a religious position. It isn't. Theists can point to the sovereignty of God over human life. Non-theists can point to the wondrous reality of human life. Either way suffices. It's in the very nature of parenthood to provide nurture, not closure, whether or not one believes in God.
The party's platform states quite clearly that "the Democratic party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue [abortion], and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party."
Yet, when the liberal Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert P. Casey, sought to speak at the party's national convention in 1992, he was rebuffed, solely because he was pro-life. Just this year the Democratic National Committee refused to post the name of a committed Democratic group, Democrats for Life of America, on the "links" page of the DNC Web site. The militant abortion-endorsing organizations are there, of course, in full force.
Perhaps the Democratic Party is not ready, for whatever reasons, to extend its life-affirming compassion for the vulnerable in society to young lives in the womb. Might I then suggest that the least it could do is acknowledge that among those dismayed by the current abortion culture are many loyal Democrats who do not belong to what the abortion-endorsers like to label the "far-right fringe." And might I urge that the party, in accordance with its platform promise to try to make abortion "rare," drop its automatic opposition to every legislative act aimed at reducing the abortion toll. It could also stop using the euphemism "choice" when, in every other context, what counts is not the choice but what is chosen.
The writer, a former journalist, came to Washington in 1961 as an appointee of the Kennedy administration in the General Services Administration. He retired from government as director of the Office of the Federal Register.