RH Reality Check - Dana Goldstein - The New Anti-Choice Democrats: Can We Work With Them? - In a campaign TV advertisement, Don Cazayoux, introduced voters to his parents, Don Sr. and Ann. "We thought you should know what he learned growing up," Ann Cazayoux said. As photographs of Don Jr. with babies flashed across the screen, she continued, "We taught him every life is precious." The words "Pro-life" appeared in the bottom left hand corner. Indeed, trumpeting broad opposition to abortion rights was a key strategy of Cazayoux's campaign. Meanwhile, in north Mississippi, Democrat Travis Childers was making a similar case. "Keep this in mind," Childers said matter of factly in one ad. "I'm pro-life and pro-gun." On May 14, Childers, too, was elected to Congress, in a district where 62 percent of voters had supported Bush's reelection.
In a reproductive health dream world, pro-choice Democrats would have been elected in Lousiana's eighth district and Mississippi's first. Given widespread anger with the Bush administration and its conservative policies, maybe Childers and Cazayoux could have moderated their abortion positions and still cruised to victory. But in reality, reassuring conservative Southern voters about core social issues was likely the only way Nancy Pelosi could have added these two seats to her total. And by preserving a continued Democratic majority in the House, Cazayoux and Childers, whatever their personal opinions on abortion, ensure that bills restraining choice will largely stay off the legislative docket. The last major Congressional vote seeking to restrict American women's reproductive rights occurred in 2006, when Republicans were still in control.
On later-term abortions, parental notification, and federal funding for abortion, pro-choicers may need to part ways with the Cazayouxs and Childerses of the world. We should do so respectfully and without alienating them or their supporters. Just by being Democrats from the South, these politicians are giving reproductive rights a major lift. By rebuilding progressivism in that region, they ensure that more Democrats -- some of them pro-choice -- will receive a fair hearing when they run for office. But for that to happen, "Democrat" can't be a scary word. Guys like Cazayoux and Childers help make that transition happen.