It was kind of hard to miss Sunday’s long-awaited story in the New York Times on grassroots pro-life Democrats, as it was smack in the middle of A1, atop the fold. I’m guessing it is a follow-up on their April 9 story that had poll data showing how the Democrat Party’s hard-left activists don’t represent most of the party faithful.
So they sent a reporter not to the South, where a lot of conservative Democrats live, but to western Pennsylvania. Having lived four years in the county just north of Pittsburgh, I know that it’s the Bible Belt of the Rust Belt.
But as far as I could tell, the reporter didn’t go near a house of worship. That’s a big journalism problem, in this case.
PITTSBURGH — Abortion is an issue that Lynndora Smith-Holmes goes back and forth on. “Six of one, half dozen of the other,” she said the other day as she finished her lunch break.
“Does it go back to people having abortions in back alleys? Haven’t we overcome that?” she asked, questioning the restrictive laws passed recently in states like Alabama and Kentucky.
At the same time, Ms. Smith-Holmes, who works for a day care center in the Allentown neighborhood of Pittsburgh and votes Democratic, said there should be limits. And she is not comfortable with the idea of taxpayer money going to fund abortions — a position that has become almost impossible to hold in the Democratic presidential primary. “Who’s paying for these?” she wondered.
That’s about all we hear about Smith-Holmes. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if Smith-Holmes has any religious background that informs her thoughts on abortion? In terms of statistics, that would be a logical angle to pursue.
There are still some opponents of abortion barely hanging on as Democrats. “I’m really sad because I don’t want to be a Republican,” said Jeannie Wallace French of Pittsburgh, who has worked with groups like Feminists for Life, which oppose abortion but are less partisan than many mainstream groups. She was pregnant with twins when she said the doctors discovered one had a form of spina bifida and advised her to abort. She declined and the baby, a girl, died shortly after birth. But doctors were able to use her heart valves to save two other infants.
She worries that stories like hers are getting drowned out. “It has become so loud, going both ways,’’ she said. “And the divide is only getting bigger.”
I searched for this woman online and found more about her on the Feminists for Life site, plus a heartrending story on NationalReview.com about what made her decide not to abort the girl. Her plea for expectant mothers (of children not expected to live past birth) to not kill a dying child is a must-read.
Since her daughter was named Mary Bernadette, I’m guessing she is Catholic but the Times team did not fill us in on that detail.
Liz Allen, a Democratic member of the Erie City Council who calls herself “anti-abortion but pro-choice,” said she wishes her party encouraged women with a wide range of experiences around pregnancy to speak up. She arrived at her own “nuanced” position about abortion, she said, after two traumatic moments: a first-trimester miscarriage and, later, the death of her adult son. “That, to me, wasn’t a person,” she said of her miscarriage, contrasting it to her son’s death. But she said she could understand how some women might feel that way.
I looked by Liz Allen’s Twitter account and she too appears to be Catholic.
So here we have three women quoted, two of whom are almost certainly Catholic and possibly the third one as well. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have mentioned this as a factor in their more moderate stands on abortion?
It’s still a mystery to me why the Times based its story in Pennsylvania. It’s not the most Catholic state in the country by far. According to the Pew Forum, much of New England, plus Wisconsin, New Mexico and Louisiana outrank Pennsylvania. The reason may be political or perhaps the state’s blue collar history?
Hard to tell. But the story did note:
About one in three voters in Pennsylvania is Catholic — higher than the national figure of about one in five. Catholic voters there turned out at the highest rate of the three states Mr. Trump won by a threadbare margin of 77,000 total votes, according to exit polls.
Most Catholics, said Steven Krueger, president of the Catholic Democrats, are like most other Americans in that they do not accept the Church’s political hard line on abortion. But they do wrestle with it morally and expect politicians will, too. “It isn’t only a question of what their churches teach, it’s also an instinct,” he said.
That paragraph is quite a stretch. For starters, the Catholic church has a “political” stance on abortion, as opposed to affirming about 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on that topic?
Who says that ‘most other Americans’ don’t agree with the Catholic Church’s position on abortion? Twenty-five percent of the American populace is evangelical. I’ll bet you that most of them would agree on abortion, including a sizable clump who’d agree with the Church’s ban on contraceptives that act as abortifacients.
Both political parties are doing a poor job of connecting with the sensibilities of Americans who “are both pro-life and pro-choice,” Mr. Krueger said. And the result is a situation where “a lot of people are feeling like orphans on this issue.”
(Mr. Trump, who attacked Hillary Clinton’s support for abortions late in pregnancy, won among Catholics nationwide by seven points, propelled by a 23-point margin with white Catholics, the Pew Research Center reported.)
I’m curious if the reporter did any looking for Protestant Democrats who are pro-life. They’re out there, but they tend to be in the South. It would’ve been nice to include one.
Also, I noticed all the Democrats profiled here were white. Too bad the reporter didn’t stop by Joe Garlington’s Covenant Church in east Pittsburgh. He would have found a truckload of conservative black Democrats there.
In Pittsburgh, Aimee Murphy founded a group called Rehumanize International that hold many positions embraced by progressives: opposing racial discrimination, capital punishment, torture and drone strikes, for instance. But because it also opposes abortion, she said, it has been marginalized in progressive circles. “In mainstream feminist circles, the word pro-life is like a swear word,” she said.
I looked up Murphy’s Twitter account to find what sounds like a fascinating person. She describes herself as: “Executive Director of @RehumanizeIntl. Consistent Life. Feminist. Latina. hufflepuff. infj. 30. Catholic. Wife. Infertile, still Fruitful.” She sounds like someone I’d really like to meet. And yes, she’s Catholic. The only person the story DOES identify, in terms of religion, is a colleague who is a bisexual Marxist atheist.
Since April, the Times has asked whether pro-life Democratic politicians can survive, but this is the first story I’ve seen where someone interviews the masses. They got some things wrong in this story, but a lot more right than usual when reporting on this topic.
However, ignoring the religious beliefs of all the major players in the story is beyond strange. People don’t usually arrive at non-popular beliefs in a vacuum. There’s got to be some sort of belief system ungirding a person’s willingness to belong to a political party that hates what you stand for. Right?