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Pro-life Democrats say the party has gone too extreme on abortion and worry the legislation leadership is pushing this week to expand abortion access nationwide will alienate voters in an already tough midterm election.
Currently, there are only two consistently pro-life Democrats left in Congress – one in each chamber – as the national Democratic Party has taken the position that abortion is an essential health care. With the Supreme Court poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Democrats in the Senate will seek to codify the right to an abortion into federal law with a vote Wednesday that is doomed to fail, but will lay the groundwork for midterm campaigning.
But in a very crowded Democratic primary election in Chicago to succeed retiring Rep. Bobby Rush, one candidate is running on a pro-life platform that he hopes will propel him to Congress and force the Democratic Party to rethink its abortion stance.
“My pro-life position is a distinguishing factor which is important in a 17-way race,” Democratic candidate Chris Butler told Fox News Digital. “If folks want to vote for somebody who is going to go to Congress and take the very unpopular position of abortion on-demand up to the ninth month of birth paid for by tax dollars… they’ve got 16 people to choose from.”
“That’s the thing about the Democratic primary, if you do not sign on to that extreme orthodoxy, then you have only one candidate.”
Butler, 37, is a pastor at Chicago Embassy Church Network and said it’s a “huge mistake” for the Democratic Party to position itself as pro-abortion which signals to certain people of faith there’s “no room” for them. Butler is endorsed by former Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski, a longtime anti-abortion Democrat in Congress who was booted out of office by a pro-choice challenger, Marie Newman, in 2020.
If he wins, Butler says his victory should “stir something” on the national level and help “the party to see that Democrats need to make room for pro-life Democrats in the party.”
The bill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is bringing for a vote Wednesday is the Women’s Health Protection Act. It’s been criticized by pro-choice Republican Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as “overly broad,” including striking down state limits on abortion, even bans on gender-based abortion.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, called out the Democratic Party for actively pushing out anti-abortion Democrats and going “way off the rails” with extreme abortion legislation, including the Women’s Health Protection Act.
“It’s a huge mistake,” Day said of Schumer forcing a vote on the abortion bill. “He thinks he’s motivating his base, which maybe he is, but he already has that base. So who is he trying to reach? Because he’s alienating people like me with doubling down on this extreme abortion policy goes further than Roe. It’s like Roe on steroids. It basically eliminates all health and safety regulations across the nation.”
Day worries the party is alienating some 20 million pro-life Democrats with its legislative agenda and official stance that “abortion is health care.” She calls that messaging “ridiculous.” Abortion, she said, “is the death penalty.”
The House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act back in September and just one Democrat voted against it — moderate Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar — in a sign that the pro-life Democratic caucus is in the verge of extinction on the federal level.
As a life-long Catholic, Cuellar said he’s pro-life and won’t support “extreme” positions like late-term or partial birth abortion.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced Tuesday he would join with Democrats in voting in favor of the bill to ensure access to abortion nationwide despite calling himself “pro-life.” The announcement is notable since he’s the son of the prominent pro-life former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey who is the namesake of the landmark 1992 Supreme Court case on abortion restrictions, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Day said the elder Casey was unapologetically pro-life and slammed the senator’s stance on Tuesday. “His spine must be made of jelly,” she said.
For his part, Sen. Casey said he’s concerned about a number of states banning abortion outright if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as expected by the leaked draft opinion. He’s also troubled by Republicans in Congress seeking legislation to impose a six-week ban nationwide.
“I don’t support a ban on abortion,” Casey said Tuesday.
The Senate abortion bill marks a political line in the sand, but it’s expected to fail Wednesday without the necessary 60 votes.
Republicans oppose the measure and they are likely to get the support from the one remaining pro-life Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said the vote is needed to show Americans exactly “where their elected representatives in Congress stand.”
“Every senator will have to explain whether they defend the right of every person to have control over their own bodies and their own futures,” Warren said in a speech Tuesday. “Or whether they will stand by as women’s constitutional rights are brazenly stripped away.”
Butler, the Democrat running in Chicago, said there should be no litmus test on abortion for Democrats. He wants the pro-life Democratic caucus in Congress to grow beyond Cuellar and Manchin.
Pro-life Democrats who could be outstanding candidates are too afraid to run because “they know that the party … would rather smack them down on this one issue than see them provide leadership,” Butler said.
Fox News’ Caroline McKee and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.