Former Pro-Life Dem Wants To Enshrine Abortion in Federal Law

Rep. Jim Langevin said he made decision after Supreme Court did not interfere with Texas's heartbeat law

Rep. Jim Langevin (D., R.I.) / Getty Images
September 9, 2021

A Democratic congressman who campaigned as pro-life for years pledged to support a bill to permanently legalize abortion. 

Rep. Jim Langevin (D., R.I.) on Thursday said he will vote to codify Roe v. Wade in a Thursday op-ed in the Providence Journal, despite insisting on the campaign trail that he is a committed pro-life Christian. Langevin said he made this decision after the Supreme Court decided not to interfere with the enactment of a six-week abortion ban in Texas.  

"In light of this inaction by the Court—and as the conservative majority seems increasingly likely to take the extraordinary step of overturning Roe v. Wade—I have reconsidered my position on reproductive rights," Langevin wrote

Langevin's announcement drew sharp rebukes and cries of betrayal from activists and longtime supporters. Kristen Day, executive director of the Democrats for Life of America, said Langevin seemed passionate about representing pro-life Democrats in Congress when she met him. But his views on abortion shifted more toward pro-choice the longer he was in office, which she attributed to the radical leadership in the party. 

"I think a lot of these members still do believe life begins in the womb," Day told the Washington Free Beacon. "The political pressure is brutal." 

Langevin said in his op-ed that he will support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) drive to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would make legalized abortion permanent in federal law. Pelosi said she will soon introduce the bill in response to the enactment of Texas's heartbeat law. 

Langevin was elected in 2000 with the support of prominent abortion opponents. He entered office with a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which shifted to 100 percent by 2007 and has fluctuated slightly since then. The National Right to Life Committee rated him at 88 percent during his first year, then dropped him to 0 percent by 2008. Langevin has consistently supported expansion to abortion access in the past decade. He did, however, support the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortion, as late as 2016. 

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, donated to Langevin’s original campaign in 2000 when he opposed abortion. Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the group, said the Rhode Island Democrat should be ashamed for allowing his once pro-life views to flip in the most radical manner possible. 

"Langevin once supported common sense, common ground pro-life proposals including stopping taxpayer funding of abortion—but how the times have changed," she told the Free Beacon. "Rep. Langevin is now a pro-abortion extremist who votes in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote in favor of a provision to keep the Hyde Amendment in August. The House voted to remove the Hyde Amendment from appropriations bills in the same month. Day said the key for pro-life Democrats moving forward is to make their voices known and support the few elected officials they have left. A quarter of Democrats identify as pro-life.

"It’s very unfortunate that my party says we need to include everybody then takes this position against pro-life Democrats," Day told the Free Beacon. "That’s exactly against what they’re for, which is diversity and inclusion."

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments over a Mississippi abortion ban in the coming weeks. State officials have asked the Court to not only uphold the law, but overturn Roe v. Wade and subsequent federal rulings preventing states from restricting abortion.