A group of more than 100 faith leaders and clergy are asking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to modify the abortion policies in its upcoming 2020 platform.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, was one of several Catholic clergy, religious, and laity who joined 115 Christian leaders, theologians, and ministers to sign a letter to the DNC and the Democratic Platform Committee on Friday, asking the party to support pro-life policies including “legal protection for pre-born children.”
The letter was sent ahead of the upcoming DNC convention scheduled to be held in Milwaukee from August 17-20. The party will adopt a platform at the convention outlining its policy priorities for the next four years.
The 2016 DNC platform was criticized by pro-lifers for its extremism; it called for taxpayer-funded abortion in the US and overseas, and promoted abortion-on-demand.
Following the 2016 platform, some Democrats in the House and Senate have sought to overturn the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old policy that has protected against taxpayer funding of abortion. On Thursday, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) filed an amendment to remove such protections from spending legislation.
The letter sent to the DNC on Friday called for “policies that protect both women and children,” including better prenatal care.
“We call upon you to recognize the inviolable human dignity of the child, before and after birth,” the letter stated, asking for a rejection of “a litmus test on pro-life people of faith seeking office in the Democratic Party.”
Among the signers were theology professors from the University of Notre Dame, Loyola University, Seton Hall University, Fordham University, and Providence College. Several Catholic priests from the dioceses of Birmingham, Providence, and Rochester, as well as the archdioceses of San Francisco and Los Angeles, signed on.
Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, who was on President Obama’s advisory council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships, also signed the letter.
The letter cites the Bible to state that “life begins at fertilization” and that “abortion takes the life of the innocent.”
The signers also say that the policy of “denying personhood to the pre-born child” shows “disturbing parallels to Dred Scott vs. Sandford,” the infamous 1857 Supreme Court decision which decided that a fugitive slave was not a citizen and did not have the rights other citizens enjoyed.
Kristen Day, the head of Democrats for Life of America, said that the letter “demonstrates the strength of opposition to Joe Biden’s beliefs about abortion.” While Biden long supported the Hyde Amendment, he reversed his support last summer in the face of criticism from other presidential hopefuls.
Other Democratic presidential candidates had pushed for aggressively pro-abortion policies, including abortion-on-demand until the point of birth. Every candidate wanted to allow for taxpayer funding of abortion in the U.S. through Medicaid reimbursements.
Candidates were also divided over whether to even recognize pro-life Democrats as part of the party. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said at a February debate in New Hampshire that support for abortion “is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, welcomed the support of pro-life voters while herself supporting taxpayer-funded abortion and Roe v. Wade.
She said that “there’s a place in our party for a pro-life Democrat, there’s also a place in my support for pro-choice Republicans.”