JFK Wouldn’t Even Be Allowed To Speak At Today’s Democratic National Convention

by Casey Mattox:

Fifty years ago today, Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy. I’m probably not the first person to remind you of that today. But as everyone looks back wistfully on America’s Camelot, this is a good opportunity to remember that the JFK of a half century ago would not be looked at so fondly by today’s “progressives.”

John F. KennedyEven ignoring JFK’s views on taxes, communism, the military, and a host of other issues, it is unlikely that JFK would have gotten past the litmus test for today’s Democratic Party—abortion. If JFK were here today it is unlikely that he would even be permitted to speak at the Democratic National Convention, much less be the standard bearer for today’s abortion-focused Democratic Party.

It should be admitted at the outset that JFK said very little about his views on abortion, since in his time abortion was not a hot political topic. In fact, Planned Parenthood itself was not publicly in favor of abortion in 1963. Brochures from the organization, still in use in 1963 (and for years thereafter), explain that birth control (which they supported) is not the same as abortion (which they did not):

Is [birth control] an abortion? Definitely not. An abortion … kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.

The only quote I know of from JFK himself likewise evinces an apparent opposition to abortion, saying that using abortion as a means of population control—as Japan had done — “would be repugnant to most Americans.”

Of course JFK’s sister Eunice (Shriver) was an outspoken pro-life advocate throughout her life. And even his brother Teddy, an abortion supporter later in life, was pro-life in the days of Camelot. In a 1971 letter to a constituent, Senator Ted Kennedy explained

It is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. … [O]nce life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire.

And in 1973, after the Roe decision, and as abortion advocates were seeking to force Catholic hospitals and medical professionals to violate their faith and perform abortions, Sen. Ted Kennedy not only voted for the Church Amendments to protect rights of conscience, he defended that freedom on the floor of the Senate.

None of this, of course, conclusively proves that JFK was a pro-life zealot— nor that he would necessarily be one today. But that’s beside the point. To be a member in good standing of today’s Democratic Party silence on abortion is insufficient. Active support is necessary. The last Democratic National Convention featured no pro-life Democrats. I’m not talking about a ban on pro-life advocacy at the podium. I mean that no pro-life Democrat was, for example, permitted to speak on education or healthcare.

This continued a virtually unbroken string of exclusively pro-abortion speakers at the DNC following the 1992 decision to prevent pro-life Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey from speaking at the DNC. Kristen Day, the Executive Director of Democrats for Life, has observed that the Democratic Party’s platform now fails to even recognize the existence of pro-life Democratic views. “Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the abortion lobby have a choke-hold on the Democratic Party,” according to Day.

Certainly, many of JFK’s views would still be consistent with today’s Democratic Party. But the same could be said of former Congressman Bart Stupak, former Governor Bob Casey and others who found themselves on the wrong side of today’s DNC litmus test. It is very unlikely that the JFK of America’s lost Camelot would have seen eye to eye with Cecile Richards and today’s Planned Parenthood on abortion. It is even less likely that he would have supported the mandate for abortifacient coverage for every elderly nun that motivated the “War on Women” at the last DNC. And without passing that abortion litmus test, JFK would likely find no home in today’s abortion-focused Democratic Party.


Casey Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.


  1. Good title! If it was the actual content of the article it would have read, “Progressive ideas from 50 years ago (especially about mostly ignored issues) would not be considered progressive ideas now,” and I would not have clicked on it.

  2. Pingback: Is the republican party, still the party of Barry Goldwater ??? Was Nixon a RINO ??? - Page 2

  3. …Except for the part where he had several children aborted himself…do research…

  4. Pingback: 5 Democrat Abortion Policies More Extreme Than Killing 7-Pound Babies

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