Pelosi Defends Supporting Pro-Life Democrat for Reelection

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on May 12 defended her support for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the few pro-life Democrats left in Congress.

“I’m supporting Henry Cuellar. He’s a valued member of our caucus,” Pelosi, who supports widely available abortion, told reporters in Washington.

Cuellar does not support abortion, but “we didn’t need him” to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would ban many restrictions on abortions, Pelosi added. “We passed the bill with what we had.”

Cuellar was the only House Democrat to vote against the act in 2021. A bipartisan Senate vote this week blocked the bill after opponents deemed it too extreme.

“It’s called conscience,” Cuellar told the Laredo Morning Times. “I am a Catholic, and I do believe in rights and right to life.”

House Democrat leadership has stood by Cuellar, even after the FBI raided his offices and were under pressure from activists to support his primary challenger, lawyer Jessica Cisneros.

Cisneros, who has repeatedly highlighted Cuellar’s vote on the abortion bill, is aligned with most Democrats in Congress on abortion.

“Abortion is healthcare and reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right,” she said in a recent statement.

The March primary was so close that voters will head to the polls again on May 24 to choose whether Cuellar or Cisneros is the Democrat candidate for the seat representing Texas’ 28th Congressional District. The Republican primary is also going to a runoff, between teacher Sandra Whitten and Texas Commissioner of Agriculture representative Cassy Garcia.

Cisneros has called on Pelosi and other congressional leaders to withdraw their support of Cuellar. In response to Pelosi’s comments, she said, “If Democrats want to earn the trust of South Texans, we need them to align their actions with their words and support our campaign against the last anti-choice Democrat.”

Abortion has been thrust to the forefront in many midterm races after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicated the court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade, its 1973 decision that declared access to abortion a constitutional right.

“With the House majority on the line,” Cisneros wrote after the leak, Cuellar “could very much be the deciding vote on the future of our reproductive rights and we cannot afford to take that risk.”

Cuellar joined many Democrats in decrying the opinion, claiming it was “not based on precedent” and would “further divide the country during these already divisive times.”

Cuellar reiterated that he is pro-life and does not support abortion but said “we cannot have an outright ban” and that there “must be exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother.”

“My faith is clear: abortion must be rare and safe,” he added.

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.

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