Democrats for Life message to DNC: 'Remember North Carolina'
CHARLOTTE — Eva Ritchey, president of North Carolina's chapter of Democrats for Life of America, has some advice for the national Democratic Party: "Look at what happened to North Carolina in 2010," she says.
Two years ago the state legislature – which had been solidly Democratic for more than a century – switched, putting the Republican Party in power. Ritchey, who rose to prominence in pro-life circles for her involvement with the passage of the Choose Life license plates, has been fighting to persuade the Democratic Party to be more pro-life in its platform. She talked with the Catholic News Herald this week about the continued struggle over abortion in the political arena and who she plans to vote for in November:
CNH: What do you see as the message from the pro-lifers to the Democratic Party?
RITCHEY: The truth is, our culture has changed. Support for abortion that was strong in the '60s and '70s doesn't exist anymore. While it is true that Americans support a woman's right to choose, a majority don't support abortion.
CNH: What can the national Democratic Party learn from North Carolina?
RITCHEY: I call it "choose to lose." When you won't moderate on a position that the voting public wants, you choose to lose. When you run polls that show 60 percent of North Carolina voters support Choose Life license plates and you have a party that says no, then (the party) is on the wrong side of that issue. (Editor's note: Choose Life license plates bills were introduced into Democrat-controlled legislative sessions on several occasions but were never voted on. The measure to pass the plates was approved in 2011 after Republicans took control of the legislature. The new law is currently being challenged in the courts.)
CNH: What is your message for pro-life Democrats?
RITCHEY: The message is: You are going to have to get involved. In North Carolina (involvement) is being helped by the Catholic dioceses. Bishop (Peter) Jugis and Bishop (Michael) Burbidge have been willing to get involved through Catholic Voice North Carolina to make these issues known and to get Catholics more involved in the social and civic issues of their lives. And I believe it helped swing that election (in 2010).
CNH: Democrats for Life is sponsoring a forum during the DNC entitled "Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party?" Can you?
RITCHEY: My answer is ... no. Yes, you can be affiliated with (the Democrats), but you won't have any say. You can say you are a pro-life Democrat, but when you do, you're not going to have the access to funds, to decision-making, to policy, you're not going to have access. So, basically, you're going to be ignored.
CNH: It sounds like you are saying pro-life Democrats should leave the party.
RITCHEY: No, I would like to see it more positively as, "Ignore us at your peril." We're giving them a choice. They can accept us, they can work with us, give us some of the policy changes we are asking for, or moderate the platform. Or they will lose our vote at that ballot box in November.
CNH: Will you be voting for President Obama in November?
RITCHEY: I am not going to vote for President Obama. The only thing that would change my mind would be if the party platform goes neutral on abortion.
— By David Hains, director of Communication