DNC Chair plans to meet with pro-life Democratic group to discuss party's stance on abortion

(Reuters/Chris Berry)Tom Perez addresses the audience after being elected Democratic National Chair during the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. February 25, 2017.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has said that he is planning to meet with a pro-life Democratic group amid controversy over whether Democratic candidates who are against abortion are welcome in the party.

Last month, Perez was criticized for saying that abortion is a "fundamental value" to the DNC and insisting that every Democrat should support it.

Democrats for Life Executive Director Kristen Day said on Tuesday that her group is in talks with the DNC to schedule a meeting with Perez.

Day and other Democrats have argued that the party should be open to other viewpoints on the issue of abortion, given the DNC's shrinking national profile.

"I think he thinks it was a mistake to put out that statement," Day said. "I'm encouraged we're meeting and we're going to have this discussion. I think it's important," she added.

DNC officials noted that Democrats for Life have requested an assembly that would include Perez and other Democratic lawmakers. They noted that talks are ongoing but nothing has been scheduled yet.

According to The Associated Press, the pro-life group requested the meeting before the DNC announced last month that it would hold a rally in Omaha, Nebraska for mayoral candidate Heath Mello, who has a pro-life voting record.

When the news of rally broke out, National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) criticized the DNC, saying its support for Mello was "disappointing" and "politically stupid."

Perez had previously said that the party should not "demand fealty" on every issue, including abortion. But after NARAL's criticism, the DNC chair issued a statement that has been viewed by many as a demand for unequivocal support for the party's pro-choice platform.

"Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable," Perez said.

Perez's remarks have been denounced by Red-state and pro-life Democrats as a litmus test on the issue of abortion. Following the controversy, some prominent Democrats have suggested that even though the party supports a pro-choice platform, there is room in the "big tent" for pro-life Democrats.

"The party does not believe in a litmus test," said DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, according to The Atlantic. "Our role is to support state parties and candidates up and down the ballot and that's exactly what we did when we invested in the state party in Nebraska as well as Mello's campaign," she added.

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