Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) closed the door on pro-life Democrats Saturday night at a presidential forum called “Our Rights, Our Courts,” hosted by the Demand Justice Initiative, the Center for Reproductive Rights and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
The forum was focused on so-called “reproductive rights” per New Hampshire Democratic National Committee members Kathy Sullivan and Bill Shaheen, according to local media in the state, giving candidates the opportunity to speak on “the threat to our courts and our reproductive rights,” per an interview Sullivan gave with WMUR.
Every candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination expressed unqualified support for abortion rights during the four-hour event, but Sanders was confronted, pointedly, about the “problem” of Democrats who are committed to opposing abortion, many of whom have expressed support for the Vermont socialist.
He was brutal in his answer: pro-life Democrats have no place in the party.
Asked if there is “such a thing as a pro-life Democrat in your vision for the party,” Sanders answered that, “I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.”
At this point in the nation’s history, Sanders added, he cannot see an argument for opposing abortion rights. “[W]hen we talk about what a Democrat is, being pro-choice is essential to that vision,” Sanders added.
“If you’re asking me – and I think I may be wrong on this – I think in the Senate, probably 95 percent of the Democrats are pro-choice, the other few are not. In the House, maybe even a higher percentage,” he said. “So that’s kind of what my view is.”
He went on to suggest that his campaign is a “big tent” and that he wouldn’t turn supporters away, though he seemed to suggest that pro-life views would be personally abhorrent.
Later on, Sanders told the audience that his “Medicare for All” plan would cover abortions at taxpayers’ expense: “And by the way, just so we are clear on this one, if this on anybody’s mind. When we wrote the Medicare for All bill there was a lot of debate in our office with the people we work with – should we make certain in our Medicare for All bill that abortion rights were cemented right in there. We did it. It’s in there.”
Sanders was elaborating on a statement he made Saturday morning on Twitter, momentarily abrogating his anti-capitalist views to embrace corporate welfare for the nation’s largest abortion provider, posting, “We have got to codify Roe v. Wade into law and significantly expand funding for Planned Parenthood.”
We have got to codify Roe v. Wade into law and significantly expand funding for Planned Parenthood.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 8, 2020
Other candidates avoided making bright line distinctions for pro-life Democrats. Even former South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg who has, in the past, said pro-lifers have no role to play in the Democratic party, was hesitant to excommunicate them altogether.
“This is a moment when I would like to see as many people voting with our side as possible,” Buttigieg said, sidestepping the issue. Just days ago, though, Buttigieg refused to limit abortion at any time in a woman’s pregnancy — a policy position only about 13% of Americans hold, according to Catholic News Agency.