Democrats Reach Out to Abortion Opponents

Democrats have reached out to abortion-rights foes by inviting the sons of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey to speak today at their convention.

By Julia Campbell Aug. 17 — Democrats who oppose abortion rights say they are often pushed to the far reaches of their own party.

That happened in 1992 to Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, who was kept off the podium at the convention that would kick off Bill Clinton’s run for the presidency. They turned him down again in 1996.

Casey, though a well-respected Democrat, was against abortion rights.

Today, however, the governor’s sons, Robert Jr., the auditor general of Pennsylvania, and Patrick, a candidate for Congress, will introduce at this convention a video honoring their father, who died in May at the age of 68. Both sons share their father’s views on abortion.

Some say the tribute is a sign that Democrats are opening their ranks to a segment of the party that does not embrace its stance on abortion rights.

“It seems to be a very quiet attempt to try to reach out to those people who disagree with them on this issue,” said Carol Tobias, political director at the National Right to Life Committee.

Diversity: ‘A Source of Strength’

Indeed, calling itself a “party of inclusion,” the Democrats have written language into the party platform that recognizes that some members of the party oppose abortion rights. “We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not a sign of weakness…” the platform reads.

The party, however, clearly supports abortion rights. Vice President Al Gore says he will “always, always defend a women’s right to choose.” And his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is also “pro-choice,” though he has expressed support for requiring minors to notify their parents before seeking an abortion.

With the new language in the party platform and the invitation of Robert Casey’s sons, the Gore campaign feels that it is making a clear effort to open the party doors to people on all sides of the controversial issue.

“People with differing views on the subject are welcome — unlike the Republicans,” Doug Hattaway said. “It says right in our platform that Democrats are united on many, many issues and where we disagree, where people disagree, we can talk about our differences.”

Still, as Tobias points out, Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, spoke during prime time Tuesday at the convention while the Casey sons will speak about their father and his views shortly before 6 p.m. ET today.

Minority in Party Wants to be Heard

In much the same way Republicans who support abortion rights say they feel alienated from their party, Democrats who oppose abortion say their views are not always received well by fellow Democrats.

“Even though the party is saying it wants to be inclusive, there is still a great deal of hostility,” toward anti-abortion rights Democrats, said Lois Kerschen, president of the Democrats for Life of America Inc., a national group founded last year. “The party has done a very good job of trying to convince people that it is solidly pro-abortion.”

But Kerschen said many Democrats want to dispel that notion and are trying to make their presence known at the Democratic National Convention this week in Los Angeles. Their hope is to bring back many Democrats, whom she believes left the party over the abortion issue.

Casey’s Legacy

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