Earlier this week, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio wrote an opinion piece in the Akron Beacon Journal announcing that, after much soul-searching, he no longer considered himself pro-life. Ryan wrote that listening to constituents who have had abortions convinced him “that we must trust women and their families—not politicians—to make the best decision for their lives.” Ryan made no mention, of course, of the “best decision” for the lives of the unborn children who perish by abortion. Ryan also offered his support for “contraception and age-appropriate sex education” as the best means for reducing the unplanned pregnancies that Ryan claims lead to abortions, overlooking the fact that the number of abortions performed in America increased even as contraception and sex education became more prevalent. It is true that, in recent years, there has been a drop in the number of abortions, but there are still many more abortions being performed today than there were before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in all 50 states.
Perhaps Ryan really did have a change of heart. Or perhaps he is merely following the trail blazed by Teddy Kennedy, Joe Biden, Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, and Dennis Kucinich, all of whom went from wanting to restrict abortion to championing it as they sought to move up the ranks in the Democratic Party. Ryan is widely expected to mount a campaign for the Senate seat now held by Republican Rob Portman, and Ryan surely knows, as Kennedy, Biden, and all the others knew, that the Democratic Party brooks no dissent on abortion at its upper levels. In fact, there increasingly is little room for pro-life Democrats even in the House of Representatives. There now are only two Democratic members of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, Rep. Daniel Lipinksi of Illinois and Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island.
This virtual disappearance of pro-life Democrats is a great setback for the cause of providing legal protection to the unborn. If Democrats were willing to compete for pro-life voters, Republicans would not be able to treat them so cynically, as Aaron Wolf so ably described at this website in his discussion of the GOP’s retreat from the already flawed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.