Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stated at a forum in New Hampshire that he believes it is “absolutely essential” for a Democrat to be pro-choice on abortion.
Speaking at the “Our Rights, Our Courts” forum in Concord on Saturday, the senator from Vermont was asked by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle if he believed it was possible to be pro-life and a Democrat.
While acknowledging the existence of a few pro-life Democrats in Congress, Sanders nevertheless concluded, “By this time in history, I think when we talk about what a Democrat is, I think being pro-choice is an essential part of that.”
In response, Princeton University Professor Robert P. George took to Twitter to denounce Sanders’ comments, believing that the candidate was “officially excommunicating pro-life Democrats.”
“So: if you’re pro-life you are unacceptable, unwanted, an intruder. Time to go elsewhere,” said George.
Nevertheless, George also commended Sanders for showing “superiority to his competitors in terms of honesty and forthrightness.”
“His answer was direct and clear. No oiliness. Sanders is a man of principle–I only wish he had the right principles,” he added.
The forum was sponsored by the pro-choice groups Demand Justice, Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and All* Above All Action Fund.
In addition to Sanders, seven other Democratic candidates were interviewed at the event: former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, philanthropist Tom Steyer, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, businessman Andrew Yang, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Sanders is not the only Democratic candidate being asked about his opinion of pro-life Democrats. At an Iowa town hall event last month, Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, asked Buttigieg about how his campaign would welcome pro-life Democrats.
“Well, I respect where you’re coming from and I hope to earn your vote. But I’m not going to try to earn your vote by tricking you. I am pro-choice. And I believe that a woman ought to be able to make that decision,” responded Buttigieg in part.
“The best I can offer is that if we can’t agree on where to draw the line, the next best thing we can do is agree on who should draw the line. And in my view, it’s the woman who’s faced with that decision in her own life.”
Day took issue with the response she received from Buttigieg, later writing in a column for USA Today that she believed he did not properly answer her questions.
“… instead [Buttigieg] focused on his unyielding support for abortion and did not really seem to want the vote from me or people who share my views,” she wrote.
“Buttigieg likes to talk about ‘future former Republicans.’ With his extreme stance on abortion, though, he is doing precisely the opposite: building an army of future former Democrats, disturbed by Trump but forced into a corner.”