House Democrats said Wednesday that their party has a large enough tent to accommodate their anti-abortion members, but only if they don't impose their "personal religious beliefs" on policy.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have come under fire from within the party for their position on abortion as Democrats press to codify abortion access in the wake of a leaked opinion indicating the Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. House Democratic leaders said Wednesday that members of their caucus would have to listen to their constituents when it comes to their abortion policy.
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"Over the years, because of their personal religious beliefs, we have had a number of members of the Democratic Caucus who were not pro-choice, and over the years, what has happened after they talked to their constituents, and a number of them ... have searched their souls and they realized that in their public duties to full healthcare for their constituents, they shouldn't be imposing their personal religious beliefs on their public duties," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) during a press conference. "But there's always room in our party for people who have all different personal beliefs. And it just so happens that these folks are listening to their constituents."
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) used Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a generally anti-abortion Democrat, as an example of this dichotomy done right. Casey announced Tuesday that he will support the Women's Health Protection Act despite previously opposing the bill.
"Casey has a personal religious belief about abortion, but he has decided he is going to vote for this bill because he knows that this should be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, that this is a private decision," Chu said. "And Sen. Casey should not be making that decision for that woman. Nor should Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. It should be a decision made by that woman, and that is what Sen. Casey is respecting."
When pressed on why top Democrats are supporting Cuellar, who supports limits on abortion, against a progressive primary challenger, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) skirted the question.
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"I have a 100% record when it comes to supporting reproductive freedom going all the way back to my time in the legislature," he said.
The Senate will vote later Wednesday on the WHPA, which would enshrine abortion access at the federal level while walking back some state-level restrictions, but it will almost certainly not have the 60 votes necessary to bypass the filibuster.