On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg went to Fox News for a town hall meeting with a more conservative audience than he is probably used to. Among the questions he received was one about the place of anti-abortion Democrats within the party, and Buttigieg attempted to articulate his pro-choice beliefs while calling for understanding with those who disagreed.
The question was posed by Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life. “I’m a proud pro-life Democrat, ” she said. “Do you want the support of pro-life Democratic voters — there are 21 million of us — and if so would you support more moderate platform language to ensure the party of diversity and inclusion really does include everybody?”
It’s an important question for Buttigieg, who has attempted to carve a space for himself as a more moderate alternative to Presidential hopefuls like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren but is, like every other candidate currently running for the Democratic nomination, pro-choice
“I respect where you’re coming from and I hope to earn your vote, but I’m not going to try to earn your vote by tricking you,” Buttigieg responded. “I am pro-choice and I believe that a woman ought to be able to make that decision. But I know that the difference of opinion you and I have is one that we have come by honestly.”
“The best I can offer – and it may win your vote, and if not, I understand — the best that I can offer is that if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line,” Buttigieg continued. “In my view, it’s the woman who’s faced with that decision in her own life.”
Day pushed Buttigieg, citing new language within the Democratic Party that seems to exclude anti-abortion views. “My question was would you be open on language like that in the Democratic platform that really did say that are party is diverse and inclusive and we want everybody?” she asked.
“I support the position of my party that this kind of medical care needs to be available to everyone, and I support the Roe v Wade framework that holds that early in pregnancy, there are very few restrictions and late in pregnancy there are very few exceptions,” Buttigieg responded. “And again, the best I can offer is that we may disagree on that very important issue, and hopefully, we will be able to partner on other issues.”
“So what do you say to Democrats who are pro-life – and there are obviously millions of them as well?” asked host Chris Wallace. “What do you say to them on an issue of such deep conscience? That they should overlook this particular issue and look at the whole sum of views or go find another party?”
“I’ve never encountered a politician or frankly another person that I agreed with 100% of the time, and even on very important things we may sometimes disagree,” Buttigieg said. “But at the end of the day, this is what I believe, and people I care about and respect view it differently.”
“This is something I believe is so important, especially because I’m never going to have to make that decision,” he continued. “And so I may have my views, but I cannot imagine that a decision that a woman confronts is going to ever be better medically or morally because it’s being dictated by any government official, and that’s just where I am on the issues.”
You can watch the exchange below, which begins around the 7:00 mark.
The question of whether Democrats have a space for pro-life members has been a source of debate within the party for years. In 2017, Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that “every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.” He added that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should” share the “Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights.”
Several Democratic leaders pushed back on drawing such a line in the sand. “I couldn’t disagree more with what Tom Perez said, I think it’s not correct that our party should have litmus tests about who wants to join our party,” said then-Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who has a rare 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard. “We may disagree on various issues, and I just don’t think we should say ever anyone is not welcome in our party based on one of those issues.”
In 2018, McCaskill lost her seat to Republican Josh Hawley.