While both of these Democratic candidates are running as relative moderates in their party, the qualifier is worth remembering — and especially on the subject of abortion. Both of them have taken the same position on the issue: No state should be allowed to ban abortion at any stage of pregnancy; no state should be allowed to require that late-term abortions should be restricted to those cases in which the fetus has a severe abnormality or poses a serious risk to the mother’s physical health; taxpayers should subsidize elective abortions for those who cannot afford them. These are extreme positions, whether measured against the benchmark of public opinion or of justice.
While taking the same position, though, Klobuchar and Buttigieg have used different rhetoric. The Minnesota senator has said that the party should be a “big tent” with room for pro-life Democrats. Buttigieg hasn’t (and Sanders has more or less denied it). This difference may have something to do with the historic strength of pro-lifers among Minnesota Democrats. Representative Collin Peterson, from western Minnesota, is one of two House Democrats to sign a recent legal brief calling for the Supreme Court to uphold regulations of abortion and reconsider Roe v. Wade.
Klobuchar’s rhetorical stance seems like better general-election politics than Buttigieg’s, because it at least communicates tolerance of people who disagree with her. A shift in position would be an even more powerful way for a candidate seeking common ground to signal reasonableness and moderation. It would also make it possible for pro-lifers to work with that candidate once elected. Whether pro-lifers could actually in good conscience vote for such a candidate is, however, another matter. The deliberate killing of a human being — whatever that being’s size, location, stage of development, or condition of dependency — is unjust, and the denial of legal protections to a subset of those beings because of their size, location, etc., is also gravely unjust. I don’t see how voting for a pro-choice candidate, even one more moderate than any of the current Democratic candidates, is compatible with solidarity for the victims of that injustice.