Comparison of the Democratic Party's
platform on abortion topics 2004 and 2008
Democratic Party platform in 2004:
"Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly
for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of
her ability to pay."
"We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right."
"At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption
incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare."
Democratic Party platform in 2008:
Their slogan for 2008 is "Renewing America's Promise."
The following wording was proposed at the convention:
"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally
supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and
legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any
and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports access
to affordable family planning services and comprehensive
age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make
informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that
such health care and education help reduce the number of
unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for
"The Democratic Party also strongly supports a
woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and
availability of programs for pre and post natal health care,
parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."
The text was approved with one modification; the word "comprehensive" was
relocated. The sentence:
"... strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and
comprehensive age-appropriate sex education..."
was replaced by:
strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and
age-appropriate sex education..."
This wording change introduces a degree of ambiguity into the statement. This is
not a unique situation for party platforms. The 2008
Republican Party platform is even more ambiguous.
unclear whether the sex education that is being promoted is:
Abstinence-only sex education has been promoted by Republican administration. Under the presidency of George W Bush, the
federal government has invested tens of millions of dollars in an effort to
limit sexually active teens' access to information that they need in order to
prevent pregnancy and STD infection.
- Comprehensive in nature: it recommends abstinence but also discusses birth control and disease prevention, or
- Abstinence-only sex education: birth control and disease prevention
information are withheld from the students.
Interpretation of the platform:
The first paragraph strongly affirms that a decision to have
or to not have an abortion should lie with the woman, and not
with her partner, the state government, or the federal
government. It appears to imply that pregnant teens who
have not reached their 18th birthday should have access to
abortion, without giving notification to, or requiring
permission from, their parents. It also implies that women
should be able to access government funds to obtain an abortion
if she cannot afford one. State funding is available in most
states only if the abortion is needed to save the woman's life.
While religious and social conservatives have preferred to
reduce the number of abortions by making them more difficult to
obtain, the Democratic Party is proposing to eliminate many
abortions by reducing the number of unwanted conceptions. They
may be proposing comprehensive sex education in schools. They do
propose and low cost
comprehensive family planning services. This would emulate programs in Canada
and in Europe whose countries that have a much lower abortion
rate than the U.S. does.
The party is also attempting to influence more pregnant women
to continue their pregnancies by removing financial and other roadblocks that are
currently making that choice difficult or impossible.
Many poor pregnant women's first contact with a physician
during her pregnancy is at the time of labor. If these women were to
have access to pre-natal care, the maternal death rate in the
U.S. should drop to approach that of other industrialized
Reactions to the proposed platform by two of its creators:
According to David Brody, of CBN's Brody File:
"... people like Pastor Joel Hunter, (registered
Republican) Jim Wallis, (President of Sojourners) Pastor Tony
Campolo and conservative Catholic legal scholar Doug Kmiec all
helped in the drafting of this new language.
Brodie quotes part of an article by Douglas Kmiec, professor of law at
"Yes, there is the reaffirmation of Roe, but it
is now matched with a full-throated call for efforts to address
the irresponsibility of kids having kids, through appropriate
educational efforts emphasizing the maturity and responsibility
that must accompany sexual intimacy."
"The most important
Obama-inspired addition to the platform is the explicit call for
greater respect for prenatal assistance, paid maternity leave,
and if a woman is unable to raise her child, a sensitively
structured and caring adoption system. To have the Democrats in
the "strongly support" column for these measures in favor of
life should not go unnoticed."
"That still leaves the Democratic
Party Platform well short of where honoring all life needs to be
from a Catholic perspective, but it moves the ball considerably
toward the side that favors life from the moment of conception."
"Party platform language is seldom inspiring; indeed, the
language proposed for the Democratic platform lacks the
rhetorical depth of Senator Obama's own statements discouraging
abortion and recognizing its moral dilemmas, and it certainly
lacks the Senator's law teacher's grasp of how the mental health
exception has left the law unthinkingly with abortion on demand."
"But the purpose of party platforms are to cobble together lists
of tangible steps to launch campaign rhetoric toward legislative
achievement. In this, the Democratic platform language on
abortion takes several notable steps toward specific,
constructive ways to honor human life. Catholics will be the
first to say -- more is needed. It is. But Catholics ought also
be the first to observe that insofar as Obama leaves the present
law giving the potential mother the ultimate choice, he has
successfully persuaded his party to commit to conditions that
will make it more, not less, likely that the choice will be in
favor of life." 2
The Rev. Tony Campolo wrote:
"Studies indicate that up to 70 percent of abortions are economically
driven. Without proper hospital care, without raising the minimum wage,
without proper day care, prenatal and postnatal care, without maternity
leave, women who are poor feel driven to have abortions. We can reduce
abortions dramatically, maybe between 50 to 70 percent if we address these
concerns. And what we are really doing, all of us on this call, are calling
upon the Republican brothers and sisters to join us and to participate in
reducing abortions in America. We have done part of the job. They have to,
in fact, say, âWe want the same kind of concerns addressed. We want the
economic factors addressed.â They have been reluctant to do that in the
past. I am hopeful and prayerful that they will do this in the future. So as
a member of the platform committee, I feel the committee worked hard to give
language that gave evangelicals and Roman Catholics the sense that they
could participate in the Democratic Party without a compromise of their
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Renewing America's Promise," Democratic Party, 2008, at:
David Brody, "Dem Party platforn's new abortion
language," CMB News, 2008-AUG-11, at:
"Democratic Party abortion platform discussion excerpts," National
Catholic Reporter, 2008-AUG-13, at:
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-AUG-15
Latest update: 2008-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson