Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Democratic Pro-Life Position

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of abortion. The Newsweek reports that John Kerry went to a Democratic meeting to thank his supporters, and they asked him what he had learned from the past campaign. And he said, "We have to find a different way to deal with the issue of abortion in terms of explaining the Democratic position, and we have to find a way to bring in right-to-life Democrats back into the Democratic Party." Could you conceive of a way the Democratic Party could say to mainstream ethnic voters, "We're a different Democratic Party. We may look at perhaps the whole idea of parental notification in terms of abortion. We may look at banning it in the third trimester." Is there a way the Democrats could change their vocabulary on abortion?

DR. DEAN: We can change our vocabulary, but I don't think we ought to change our principles. The way I think about this is--and it gets into the gay marriage stuff, too. We're not the party of gay marriage. We're the party of equal rights for all Americans. You know, I signed the first civil unions bill in America, and four years later the most conservative president the United States has seen in my lifetime is now embracing what I signed. We've come a long way. We're not the party of abortion. We're the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment. It's just a different way of phrasing it. We have to start framing these issues, not letting them frame the issues.

I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats. The Democrats that have stuck with us, who are pro-life, through their long period of conviction, are people who are the kind of pro-life people that we ought to have deep respect for. Not only are they pro-life, which, I think, is a moral judgment--I happen to be strongly pro-choice, as a physician--but they are pro-life for moral reasons. They also, if they're in the Democratic Party, are real pro-life. That is, they're pro-life not just for unborn children. They're pro-life for investing in children's programs. They're pro-life for helping small children and young families. They're pro-life in making sure adequate medical care happens to children. That's what you so often lack on the Republican side. They beat the drums about being pro-life but they forget about life after birth. And so I do embrace pro-life Democrats. I think we want them in our party. We can have a respectful dialogue, and we have to stop demagoguing this issue.

MR. RUSSERT: And if you became chairman of the party, you would actively reach out to pro-life Democrats?

DR. DEAN: In my campaign, supposedly this liberal campaign, we had a number of pro-life people. Our campaign really is a reform campaign. Now, there were a lot of progressive people, and I believe in progressive issues, but what we're trying to do is reform America. We're trying to have health-care reform, we're trying to have election reform, campaign finance reform. We're certainly trying to reform the borrow-and-spend habits of this administration, which is the most spendthrift administration in my lifetime in America. This supposedly conservative administration can't hold on to a dollar, let alone a taxpayer dollar. So we want real reform and I want the Democratic Party to stand for reform.

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