The leader of the pro-life organization Democrats for Life criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez in an interview with TheBlaze Monday for demanding that the party’s candidates for public office support abortion.
Pro-choice activists lashed out at former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after he endorsed Heath Mello, a Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, who once backed pro-life bills as a member of the state’s legislature.
In the wake of the controversy surrounding Sanders’ endorsement of and decision to campaign with Mello in the midst of a DNC “unity tour,” Perez told the Huffington Post, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”
“That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state,” he said.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, told TheBlaze that Perez imposed a “litmus test” on potential Democratic candidates — a test that weakens the party as it attempts to regroup in preparation for the 2018 and 2020 elections.
“It’s pretty clear,” Day said of Perez’s demand. “There’s no gray area here. He’s saying being for abortion is non-negotiable.”
Day noted that Perez initially backed Mello before issuing the statement.
“He caved to the pressure of NARAL and totally flip-flopped on the issue,” Day said, citing the pressure from NARAL Pro-Choice in the wake of Sanders' support for Mello, including a statement from the organization's president, Ilyse Hogue, calling Sanders' move "politically stupid."
Day said that the controversy showed NARAL's true colors.
“They’re not Democrats," she said. "They support abortion, they don’t care about the party. If they cared about the party, they wouldn’t have gotten involved in this race. And they wouldn’t have pressured the chairman to impose this litmus test that will shrink the party instead of grow it.”
She also noted that Perez displayed “poor leadership” by telling a third of the party that "you can’t belong." Day cited a Pew Research Center study that found 28 percent of Democrats believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.
Praising Sanders for backing Mello and for sticking by the endorsement in the wake of the controversy, Day said, “His comments were right on. We need more leaders like this willing to do what’s best for the party."
“Maybe he should be the chairman,” she said.
Countering Hogue's criticism of Sanders, Day argued pushing pro-life Democrats out of the party is “strategically stupid” and allows Republicans to paint all Democrats as extremists on abortion.
Democrats “don’t have a bench right now,” Day noted. “We are a minority party if you look around the country. In these state and local races, Republicans control almost everything.
"If we’re going to be a big-tent party, we have to allow people to vote their conscience on this issue,” she said. “And we have not been very good at that.”
According to Day, the party needs to find common ground in supporting women facing unplanned pregnancies in order to reduce the number of abortions that take place.
“We need to do more of that,” she said. “Empowering women to carry their babies to term … that’s a way our party could really flourish and lead, instead of saying that killing babies is a fundamental right.”
She called for Perez to “retract this abortion litmus test,” noting that his Twitter profile states that he is “fighting for the little guy.”
“I think that’s a little ironic, that he has ‘fighting for the little guy’ on his Twitter page as a description of himself, yet, he’s not," Day said. "He’s attacking the littlest.”