Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
Dear Mr. Perez:
I don’t normally write “open” letters to people. In fact, this is my first.
But I read about your arrogant statement that pro-life Democrats are no longer welcome in the Democratic party. That statement is far removed from what someone in your position should be saying. It demands a response that is as public and personal as your statement.
I am a pro-life Democrat. I’ve been a registered Democrat since you were in middle school. I held office for 18 years as a Democratic elected official. I have both voted for and authored pro-life legislation.
Among other pro-life legislation I have passed into law, I was the primary House author of the bill that broke the 30-year logjam on pro-life legislation in Oklahoma. I authored the bill that made it illegal to perform elective abortions in state-funded hospitals, and I passed it over the veto of a Democratic governor. I oppose the death penalty and have the votes and battle scars to prove it.
I also was one of the six founders of the Oklahoma YWCA Rape Crisis Center. I was the author of Oklahoma’s protective order and a plethora of other women’s rights legislation.
I am a Jesus-loving, pro-life, women’s-rights-supporting, working-people-backing, patriotic American. I am also a life-long Democrat.
My father stood in breadlines during the Great Depression. I have an aunt who died from diabetes because the family could not afford insulin. One of my cousins died of pellagra back in the bad days of laissez faire capitalism. I know, as so many Americans do not, that we are all one or two paychecks away from re-visiting those days again.
I am a Democrat. But I am also, without reservation and with plenty of bona-fides to back up the statement, 100 percent, unequivocally, pro-life. I will not kill people. I will not help someone else kill people.
I believe that human life is sacred, that the right to life from conception to natural death is the basic human right on which all other rights are founded. I believe that no other right supersedes the basic right to life.
I realize that these statements concerning the basic right to life of all human beings must read like a word salad to you, Mr. Perez. I also understand that I know some things that you don’t seem to get.
Here is what I know that you evidently don’t: The Democratic Party is not an invitation-only private club for you and your buddies. You don’t get to kick people out of the Democratic Party. Neither do your “friends” who got you your job as party chair, and who evidently pressured you into making this obscenely stupid and offensive statement.
You do not decide who gets to be a Democrat, and you do not dictate the consciences of your fellow Democrats. You are, Mr. Perez, so far out of line that you don’t even know where the line is.
There was a time when the Democratic Party actually supported the right to life more strongly than the Republicans. Democratic legislators authored pro-life bills, and Democratic Congressmen authored pro-life Constitutional Amendments designed to overturn Roe v Wade.
Pro-choice activists — back then, I was one of them — were working to take over the Democratic Party. They were unwittingly helped by certain evangelical political groups who were attacking pro-life Democratic candidates in favor of Republican candidates — who often were not as pro-life as the Democrats they had worked to replace.
This pushed Democrats more and more into the pro-abortion camp, where the pro-abortion people were waiting to comfort and support them. This went on until we’ve got the mess we have now.
You, Mr. Perez, and your pronouncement banning pro-life Democrats from their own political party, are the most recent manifestations of this sad state of affairs. There was a time, back when the Party was mostly pro-life, that issues such as abortion were deemed “moral” issues that Democrats had a right to decide for themselves.
The thinking was that “moral” issues such as this went to the core of the person making the decision. They accessed their deepest religious and moral beliefs. As such, they were outside the realm of party discipline. Democrats of that era agreed that in matters such as these, all Democrats should adhere to their own conscience and faith.
Several generations of culture warfare have destroyed the fabric of civility and common sense in our culture. The personal viciousness with which this fight has been waged has degraded both sides, and it appears, Mr. Perez, that it has profoundly damaged your moral compass.
You fail to see that abortion is a moral issue of deep personal conviction. You no longer understand that individual Democrats are human beings with what Thomas Jefferson called “unalienable rights” to make moral decisions based on their own morality rather than yours.
During my time as a pro-life legislator, I had members of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Central Committee call for me to leave the party because I was pro-life. I had fellow Democratic House members get in my face and yell at me, telling me to get out of the Democratic Party because of my pro-life stand. I was picketed by Democratic activists. The Oklahoma State Democratic Party came within 50 votes of censuring me and a pro-life Democratic senator during their statewide convention because I had passed a pro-life bill over the veto of a Democratic governor.
This was a massive degradation of what the Party had once been, which was a big tent that allowed its members to, in the words of Wesley, “think and let think” on moral matters. Now you, by misusing your position as head of the party to state that pro-life Democrats can’t be Democrats, have not only ratcheted up the bigotry and intolerance of the Party, you have completely overstepped your bounds.
You do not get to expel people from the Democratic Party. You can’t expunge their names from the voter lists, and you can’t stop them from running for office. You have no say whatsoever as to who is or is not a Democrat. None. Zero. Zip.
Your statement that you will, unilaterally, establish a “test” concerning pro-abortion as a basis for whether or not the party supports Democratic office seekers is out of line. Democrats have always prided themselves on being the party where their elected officials were able to vote their conscience without being “disciplined” by the party. We did not vote in lockstep the way the Republicans did. And we did not demand that our candidates and office holders act as puppets for special interests in order to be supported by the party.
Now, you have decided to change all that. Suddenly, any candidate who does not toady to the very special interest of pro-abortion is verboten. You have stated publicly that the party will, as a matter of policy, leave them out on the ice and let the bears have them.
You are, as I said earlier, out of line. This action may help you keep your job, but it will destroy the party you are trying to lead. It violates the core belief of the Democratic Party that individual people matter. There is nothing so deeply part of what makes a person a person than their freedom to act as moral agents concerning their own religious and moral beliefs.
Your morality, Mr. Perez, is not my morality. I do not demand that you change. I do not require that you think what I think and believe what I believe. But I do demand that you allow me the same freedom and offer me the same respect that I give to you.
I am pro-life.
I am a Democrat.
The Democratic Party is just as much mine as it is yours. I’m pro-life and I’m not leaving the Democratic Party to you and your pro-abortion cohorts.
To paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my party, and I’ll stay if I want to.”
Yours in Christ,
Representative Rebecca Hamilton
P.S. I just made a donation to the pro-life Democrat you say the party won’t support.