Let’s start here: Is it news when Democrats who are, to one degree or another, Catholic take actions that support abortion rights, especially with legislation linked to late-term abortions?
So now let’s ask a variation on this question: Is it news when a prominent Democrat who is a Catholic takes actions to limit abortion rights, while openly linking his political views on a variety of progressive “life issues” to the teachings of his faith?
I would say a strong “yes.” Then again, I spent decades attempting to vote as a pro-life Democrat. (Confession: I gave up and registered with a third-party in 2016.)
The political desk at The Washington Post (mildly) agrees, on this point, when covering the current drama unfolding around Gov. John Bel Edwards, down in the complex political state that is Louisiana. The headline: “Louisiana’s Democratic governor just defied his party and signed an abortion ban into law.”
How about The New York Times? Hold that thought. First, here is a key passage that is buried pretty far down in the Post coverage. It does contain a crucial word — “Catholic.”
In Louisiana, the nation is seeing some of the last remaining antiabortion Democrats, a class of politician that has grown obscure in recent decades.
Edwards has been a high-profile member of that group since he was elected governor in 2015. Like other antiabortion Democrats, he likes to say he’s “pro-life for the whole life,” because he opposes abortion and supports policies such as Medicaid expansion and a higher minimum wage. In his post-vote statement, he said he believes that “being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth.”
The Army veteran and Catholic has said he traces his long-held views on abortion to his faith — and so do many of his constituents, he said.
“That’s the way I was raised,” Edwards said in an October episode of his monthly radio show. “I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that’s not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day.”
Yes, it would have been interesting to have heard more about how these “consistent life” Democrats apply their beliefs to political realities linked to immigration, gun control, the death penalty and a host of other “seamless garment” issues discussed in Catholic circles.
But if you want to catch the tone of the Washington Post story, check out this passage:
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Katrina Jackson, another Democrat, said in an interview with The Washington Post before the vote that she planned to support the six-week ban, too. Her party’s preferences are no match for her own deeply held religious beliefs, she said.
“I don’t believe in being a cookie-cutter legislator, which means you say, ‘Oh, what’s the party doing?’ " she said. “When you have a sincerely held belief, you stand for that belief. That doesn’t mean you abandon your party. That doesn’t mean that you abandon anyone. That means that you understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to legislature doesn’t work.”
In other words, she would be a normal Democrat — except for those “deeply held religious beliefs.” That isn’t a wording that is going to play well with Catholic Democrats on the religious left or the right. Can you say “pew gap”?
For more on this line of thinking, please see this tweet by a leader of the Democrats For Life network:
Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, this is a political story — period. The headline: “Louisiana Moves to Ban Abortions After a Heartbeat Is Detected.”
Read it all or, if you are short for time, just do a quick search of the text for the word “Catholic.” My search came back with this — “0/0.”
The Times team admitted that religion — of a generic brand — had something to do with the actions of the Democrats at the heart of this story. Thus, see this passage:
… The Louisiana measure, coming near the end of a legislative season in which state after state considered bills to either restrict or protect abortion, stood out for the composition of the political coalition that rallied around it. The Republicans who control the Legislature endorsed the measure, but it was written by a Democratic state senator from the Shreveport area, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is running for re-election this year, pledged his support.
“God values human life, and so do the people of Louisiana,” the state senator, John Milkovich, said this month. “We believe this is an important step in dismantling the attack of the abortion cartel on our next generation.”
As for the governor, there was this intriguing hint at deeper content:
Mr. Edwards has long opposed abortion rights, and his 2015 campaign was lifted by an advertisement in which his wife recalled the family’s decision to reject a doctor’s recommendation that she have an abortion because the child would be born with spina bifida.
Now, about that daughter — who is alive and well, as a married adult, and has a name.
Reporters who want to know more about this key factor in the story of the Edwards family might want to check out this Heavy.com piece — “Samantha Edwards, John Bel Edwards’ Daughter: 5 Fast Facts.”
This is very basic material, in terms of journalism research. Reading this might help reporters and editors understand why Edwards has taken some of the political risks that he has taken. Here is a crucial paragraph or two, about this governor’s stand on abortion:
Edwards said in a statement that his “position hasn’t changed. In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator.” He credits his political stance on his experience with his daughter Samantha. His wife Donna was 20 weeks pregnant with their future daughter when a doctor discovered Samantha had spina bifida.
While abortion was encouraged, they decided to keep her. Not only is she living a healthy life as a working, married woman, but she is the driving force behind Gov. Edward’s abortion policy.
Reporters who want to know how Gov. Edwards links this conviction into other issues, here is his statement about this bill and his decision to sign it.