For about a month, the Missouri Democratic Party was willing to accept voters with "differing positions on issues of personal conscience." But over the weekend, party leadership decided to rescind the olive branch it extended to pro-life Democrats earlier this summer.
An amendment voted into the platform by party leadership in late June was voted back out this past Saturday—a move that Democrats opposed to an abortion purity test say the party will regret in November.
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The platform clearly states the party supports "a woman's right to choose" and would "oppose any efforts to limit access to reproductive health." The now-removed amendment had stated a willingness to "welcome into our ranks all Missourians."
"We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion," the amendment read. "We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength, and welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold differing positions on this issue."
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, a national group that advocates for the Democrats to open its door to pro-life voters, called the amendment "innocuous." She called it a "mistake" to reverse course and said party chairman Stephen Webber was giving in to pressure from the "abortion lobby."
"It was a very innocuous amendment that didn't attack the pro-abortion crowd, so you'd think it would be fine," Day said. "I don't know what the abortion lobby did to the chairman, but this is a mistake."
Day told the Washington Free Beacon that the decision to adopt the amendment just to pull it away made the situation worse than it was to begin with.
"There has been a sore in the party for a long time, that language put a scab on it," Day said. "Now they pulled off the scab and it's going to bleed."
Day said her opponents in the fight "care more about abortion than they do about the health of the party," blaming the alienation of voters for its dire standing in states such as Missouri, where Republicans have large majorities of both legislative chambers and the governor's office.
Polling data collected by Pew Research Center in 2014 found that 50 percent of Missourians said abortion should be illegal in most cases, compared with 45 percent who thought it should be legal in most cases.
The candidate hardest hit by the party's decision to reimplement its abortion purity test could be Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who is staunchly pro-abortion but said after the amendment was initially adopted that she doesn't think the party "should shut its doors to those who feel differently."
Her Republican opponent Josh Hawley said Missouri Democrats showed their true colors with the decision.
"Missouri Democrats finally quit pretending to be moderate and inclusive today," Hawley told the Washington Free Beacon. "They are now held captive by the most militant fringes of their party."
McCaskill is yet to comment on the party's platform decision. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Day said she spoke to several pro-life Missouri Democrats since the amendment was removed and found many growing tired of being told they don't belong in the party.
"There are so many issues we care about, so we usually hold our nose and vote for them anyway," Day said. "They want us to shut up and vote. Well, we're not going to do that anymore."
"The Senate race is going to be close, so you don't want to alienate anyone," she said. "I know the pro-life Missourians are giving this a lot of thought, they're tired of being marginalized."
The Kansas City Star editorial board concurred with Day, asking on Monday evening, "Why are Missouri Democrats imposing a pro-choice purity test ahead of midterms?"
The editorial board said the decision "strikes us as especially self-defeating with the November midterms dead ahead."
"When Democrats say the republic is at stake, and democracy itself, do they mean it? If they do, this is an odd time for purity tests."
The editorial board also quotes a retired union electrician, Darryl Jeffries, who is pro-life and a lifelong Democrat. Jeffries was present at the weekend platform meeting—his first time. He said he came away feeling like he "wasn't welcome."
Jeffries said the 68 members of the Missouri Democratic Party's platform committee came off as "a bunch of rich New York Democrats making decisions for the thousands of us blue-collar people they'd really just like to see go away."
Another Missouri voter who said he donated to McCaskill's campaign just two weeks ago responded to the news by saying he was now "officially without a political home" after being "pushed out."
"After today's decision in Missouri to no longer welcome pro-lifers, I will do as asked by them and no longer support the Democrats," the voter said.
The Missouri Republican Party said it hopes the party's lack of inclusivity enters the minds of voters in November.
"The Missouri Democratic Party has proven that they are not in fact the inclusive party they claim to be, and this complete shunning of a huge chunk of Missouri voters is yet another example," said Missouri GOP spokesman Chris Nuelle. "If Missourians didn't already have enough reasons not to vote for Claire McCaskill, her own party's decision to shut out pro-life Missourians should weigh heavy on the minds of voters when they decide which party best represents their values come November."
Day said she wasn't sure whether any of the pro-life Democrats he spoke with would go as far as casting a ballot for Hawley but predicted "a lot of people might stay home."