DES MOINES, Iowa — Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez plans to meet with an anti-abortion Democratic group amid divisions within the party over whether to back candidates opposed to abortion, according to the group.
DNC officials say there’s no meeting confirmed yet.
Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day said Tuesday that the DNC and her group were in talks about scheduling a session with Perez, who proclaimed last month it is “not negotiable” that “every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health.”
DNC officials said Tuesday that Democrats for Life wants an assembly that would include Perez and Democratic lawmakers. Talks are ongoing but nothing is scheduled, the party officials said, and they pointed again to Perez’s April statement making clear the party’s support for abortion rights.
That initial declaration drew sharp criticism from anti-abortion Democrats. Like Day, they argued that Democrats need to open their doors to different viewpoints on the sensitive issue, given the party’s shrinking national profile.
“I think he thinks it was a mistake to put out that statement,” Day said. “I’m encouraged we’re meeting and we’re going to have this discussion. I think it’s important.”
Democrats for Life first requested a meeting with Perez before the Democratic National Committee announced last month it would hold a rally in Omaha, Nebraska, for mayoral candidate Heath Mello, a former state senator who supported abortion restrictions.
News of the rally sparked outcry from National Abortion Rights Action League President Ilyse Hogue, who called support for Mello “politically stupid.”
Perez quickly backtracked, pledging that if anti-abortion Democrats “try to legislate or govern that way, we will take them on.”
Meanwhile, independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders went on to headline the April rally in Omaha, urging Democrats to support Mello. He lost the mayoral race on May 9.
Anti-abortion Democrats have almost disappeared in Congress. Only three senators fit the description, and all three — Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — are up for re-election next year in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.
Plans for the meeting were first reported in The Atlantic.
Associated Press reporter Bill Barrow contributed from Atlanta.