ABOUT MICHIGAN DEMOCRATS FOR LIFE
The purpose of Michigan Democrats for Life (MDFL) is to promote a consistent life ethic in the public square. MDFL will identify objectives and positions and employ strategies in furtherance of this purpose.
A 'consistent life ethic' addresses issues of human life and dignity in a consistent way from conception to natural death, regardless of stage or state of life. Respect for the lives of unborn children is an integral part of the consistent life ethic, but there are other important areas where human life and dignity are also at risk. Elements of a consistent life ethic include such things as:
bringing children and families out of poverty;
protecting the lives and dignity of both mothers and their unborn children;
empowering women to choose alternatives to abortion;
avoiding overuse of the criminal-justice system as well as excessive penalties that lead to mass incarceration for relatively minor non-violent offenses;
ensuring healthcare for all;
opposing all forms of oppression and systemic racism;
treating refugees, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations with dignity and respect;
prioritizing the protection of life and health in environmental policies and other governmental policies; and
opposing capital punishment, euthanasia and other policies that disrespect human life and dignity.
To achieve our purpose of promoting a ‘consistent life ethic’ in the public square, Michigan Democrats for Life will pursue the following objectives:
Influencing the Democratic Party
Bring about greater understanding and acceptance of a consistent life ethic in the Democratic Party by:
1.1 Working toward broader recognition of the importance, dignity, and rights of every person at every stage of their life cycle, from conception to natural death.
Comment: As we seek incremental progress in changing the Party’s messaging and strategies, it is important to also focus on promoting the facts, ideas, and principles upon which a consistent life ethic is based.
1.2 Encouraging the leaders, policymakers, candidates, and members of the Michigan Democratic Party to expand their positions and messaging on reproductive policy to encompass a broad range of policies that support having and raising children.
Comment: Democrats who agree with MDFL that every person's life begins at conception will seek to protect the lives of pre-born children at all stages of gestation. But even pro-choice Democrats can point out ways they support bearing and raising future generations. Health care for children and expectant mothers makes a huge impact on the ability to have and raise a child. The same can be said about employment policies such as paying a living wage and providing sick leave, maternity leave, and personal leave. Earned income credits or a universal child allowance can address childcare costs and other expenses of raising children. Such policies empower people to raise children, and thereby reduce abortion as well as poverty. They are supported by Democrats and many independent and Republican voters but are typically opposed by Republican policymakers.
1.3 Encouraging Democratic candidates to understand and demonstrate sensitivity to the concerns of their pro-life constituents.
Comment: Even pro-choice candidates should seek to understand their pro-life constituents instead of seeing them through the caricatures with which they are sometimes portrayed. It would also be both prudent and appropriate for Democratic candidates to moderate their positions and messaging on abortion, particularly in districts where a majority of their constituents believe that human life begins at conception. It is virtually impossible for a Democratic candidate to prevail in many parts of Michigan without demonstrating sensitivity to the concerns of these voters.
1.4 Encouraging the leaders, policymakers, candidates, and members of the Michigan Democratic Party to support reasonable pro-consumer regulation of the healthcare industry, including abortion providers, consistent with traditional Democratic values.
Comment: Democrats are traditionally the party that supports consumer rights and safety. Both parties should apply the same principles to regulation of the abortion industry as they apply other industries.
1.5 Identifying and supporting Democratic candidates for public office in Michigan who favor policies that reflect a consistent life ethic.
Comment: To earn an endorsement from MDFL, a Democratic or non-partisan candidate must be 'pro-life for the whole life.'
1.6 Promoting the Democratic ideal of inclusiveness and encouraging the leaders, candidates, and members of the Michigan Democratic Party to live up to their stated ideal of an “open tent Party” by welcoming the support and participation of voters and Party members who support a consistent life ethic.
Comment: To be competitive in every district, the Democratic Party must welcome the support and participation of the pro-life half of Michigan's population.
Influencing the Pro-life Movement
Bring about greater understanding and acceptance of a consistent life ethic in the pro-life movement by:
2.1 Increasing the visibility of whole-life Democrats and whole-life concepts within the pro-life movement.
Comment: The same principles that lead pro-life voters to value the lives and dignity of unborn children should lead them to insist upon candidates who value human lives and dignity in other stages and states of life. Pro-life voters should be uncomfortable in today's Republican Party. We want them to know that there is a better alternative: they can work to improve the Democratic Party.
2.2 Encouraging Michigan voters who embrace pro-life values to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both Democratic and Republican candidates with respect to life issues.
Comment: Pro-life voters sometimes fail to realize that Democrats have strengths and Republicans have weaknesses with respect to life issues. Although Republican candidates usually produce better rhetoric regarding unborn life than many Democrats, it is Democrats who have supported the health and economic policies that actually save the lives of unborn children. It is also Democrats who usually do a better job safeguarding the lives and dignity of vulnerable populations after birth. Meanwhile, Republican policymakers generally underperform even with respect to protecting unborn life. Instead of doing everything they can to protect life when they control every branch of Michigan government, they tend to do just the bare minimum to keep pro-life voters in their coalition. Neither party has done a fully satisfactory job on life issues. Voters should consider the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate and each party, and then base their choices on what the candidates and parties do as well as what they say.
2.3 Promoting an understanding that criminalization of abortion is not the only way, or even necessarily the most effective way, to reduce the number of abortions.
Comment: The goals of the pro-life movement cannot be achieved without changing minds and hearts. Eliminating elective abortion is only possible with broad consensus that it is unacceptable to end the lives of unborn children unnecessarily. Such consensus does not yet exist in Michigan. It is also essential to empower women and families to choose life. For example, health insurance that covers maternity care has arguably done more to reduce the number of abortions than any other pro-life policy that has been implemented in the past fifty years. Moreover, when laws are developed to restrict or regulate abortion, serious consideration should be given to whether non-criminal approaches may be more appropriate, more effective, and more consistently enforced than criminal penalties. It is possible to be pro-life without insisting on the criminalization of abortion, and overemphasis on criminalization can impede the important work of changing minds and saving lives.
Influencing Public Policy
Shape public policy to reflect a consistent life ethic by:
3.1 Advocating in favor policies that advance a whole life agenda and against policies that oppose a whole life agenda.
Comment: In the past, for example, MDFL endorsed a citizen initiative to ban live dismemberment abortions. MDFL also filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the way that Michigan’s Republican legislators kept a citizen initiative off the ballot that would have increased the minimum wage and provided sick leave for many workers. Republican legislators kept the issue off the ballot by enacting the legislation called for by the citizen initiative, even though they actually opposed it, and then they negated it through amendments during the lame duck session after the election. This had an adverse effect on the ‘whole life agenda’ in two important ways. First, the citizen initiative would have reduced poverty and reduced the number of abortions by empowering more people to choose life for their children. Second, the legislature’s ‘adopt and amend’ strategy establishes a precedent that can be used to thwart future citizen initiatives, including pro-life initiatives. This is a very serious threat to Michigan’s pro-life movement, but pro-life organizations that are allied with the Republican Party remained silent on the issue.
3.2 Joining in alliances with other organizations in this advocacy.
Comment: There are not very many groups that agree with whole-life Democrats on every important issue. (We even benefit from significant diversity of viewpoints within our organization.) There are many groups, however, both progressive and conservative, with which we agree on some issues. Just as democracy works best when political parties are willing to work together despite their differences, we are willing to work with other organizations on areas of mutual concern even if we also have significant areas of disagreement. Unlike many organizations that are active in the public square, we are also willing to take issue with our party and with our allies when we believe that they are making a mistake, and we are not surprised or offended when our allies have points of disagreement with us.
OUR OFFICERS AND BOARD
Sarah Burchart (Novi)
Barbara Kelley (Adrian)
Robert Anderson (Marquette)
Robert Synk (Grand Rapids)
Other Board Members:
Valentyna Anderson (Marquette)
Nick Ciaramitaro (Roseville)
John Quinn (Detroit)
Michael Quinn (Kalamazoo)
Elizabeth Rae (Northville)
Advisory Group of Former Board Members:
John O'Neill (Cedar)
Monica Sparks (Kentwood)
Bart Stupak (Menominee)
Kathryn White (Marquette)
(from our by-laws)
Formation of Board of Directors and Qualifications. Official decision-making of DFL MI is conducted by its Board of Directors. The Board consists of at least 5 members, not to exceed 15, and new members can be added by action of the Board. Members of DFL MI and prospective members of DFL MI are welcome to participate in Board meetings and to serve as a volunteer for DFL MI.
To be eligible to be a member of DFL MI, a person must be at least 16 years of age and be in agreement with DFL MI’s statement of purpose. To be eligible to serve on the Board of Directors, a person must be at least 16 years of age, be a member of the Michigan Democratic Party, and be in agreement with DFL MI’s statement of purpose and its Bylaws.
Election and Duties of Officers. The Officers include President, Vice-President(s), Treasurer and Secretary. All officers must also be members of the Board. To be eligible to serve as an Officer, a person must have first been elected as a member of the Board.
The Chair shall preside at all Board meetings, and have such other duties as are usual to the office of a nonprofit Chair. The Vice-Chair shall assist the Chair in the discharge of his/her duties, and shall temporarily assume the duties and responsibilities of the Chair in his/her absence.
The Secretary shall keep an accurate record and minutes of the proceedings of the meetings of the Board. He/she shall keep and preserve all the books, documents, correspondence, records, minutes, effects, and any other property of this organization, and when a new secretary is elected the past secretary shall forthwith deliver to the newly elected secretary all the aforesaid items kept and preserved during his/her tenure of office. In the absence of the Chair, he/she shall see that proper notification of meetings is given to Board Members.
The Treasurer shall be responsible for the financial receipts and disbursements of this organization subject to the approval of the Board. The Treasurer shall make financial reports to the Board. When a new Treasurer is elected, the past Treasurer shall forthwith deliver to the new Treasurer the funds and all the books and records kept during his/her tenure in office.
Committees. The Chair shall appoint Committees as needed.