The Web site of the Democratic National Committee links Internet users to the sites of 279 political and advocacy organizations, labor unions, religious groups and government agencies.
The list, divided into 28 categories, includes everything from the Willie Valasquez Institute to the Oneida Indian Nation to the National Association of Social Workers.
But the DNC is resisting adding a 280th link.
For almost a year, an organization dedicated to electing Democrats to national, state and local offices has been pressing the national party to add its Web site to the DNC’s list of linkable sites. The problem is, the organization is dedicated to electing Democrats who oppose abortion rights.
So far, the DNC, whose quadrennial platform in 2000 included a plank affirming the party’s support for a woman’s right to have an abortion, has refused to respond to the query by the group known as Democrats for Life of America.
“The request is under review,” is all DNC spokeswoman Deborah DeShong will say.
But Democrats who buck the party orthodoxy on abortion are saying plenty.
“I think that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion, according to their mission statement — the big tent party,” said Carol Crossed of Rochester, N.Y., president of Democrats for Life of America. “We’ve always embraced a more expansive interpretation of human rights. Surely we can embrace a diversity of opinions on this issue.”
The organization is now turning to high-powered allies for help.
In the past month, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has written to DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe urging the party to add the Democrats for Life link to its Web site. In addition, 17 House Democrats wrote to McAuliffe defending the anti-abortion-rights group.
In their May 14 letter, the House Members said the DNC’s refusal to add the Web link amounted to “ostracism” of loyal Democrats and contradicted the party’s abortion plank in the 2000 platform, which said in part, “We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue.”
“Actions speak louder than words,” the 17 House lawmakers wrote.
But the DNC apparently does not know how to respond.
In this era of sharply divisive political discourse, abortion rights groups have come to represent one of the Democratic Party’s strongest constituencies — and one of its best sources of fundraising.
The DNC Web site offers links to seven organizations devoted to the support of abortion rights, plus links to 48 women’s groups, most of whom are known to be defenders of abortion rights.
“We weren’t asking them for a change of the platform,” Crossed said. “We were simply asking for an acknowledgment, a recognition.”
Inevitably, she likened the party’s reluctance to include the Web site link to the party’s refusal to let then-Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey (D) speak at the 1992 Democratic National Convention about his opposition to abortion. The late former governor, who went to work for anti-abortion-rights organizations after he left office in 1994, has become the patron saint of the anti-abortion wing of the party.
“I love the Democratic Party, but to be quite honest, I was embarrassed about what happened to Bob Casey,” Crossed said.
She argued that the Democrats may have lost Senate races in Missouri, Georgia and Minnesota in 2002 because of the party’s absolutist position on abortion, which, she said, turned off swing voters who might otherwise have been receptive to the party’s positions on other issues.
But a national Democratic strategist with close ties to women’s organizations called that thesis — and the anti-abortion group’s push for a Web link — “a teapot looking for a tempest.”
“It seems to me like this is a fringe group desperately in search of a little publicity here,” the strategist said.