On the subject of abortion rights, the 2016 Democratic Party platform language prepared for candidates was as firm as ever.
"Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice," it noted. "We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion -- regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured."
Most of the party's candidates agreed on other implications of that statement, from legal third-trimester abortions, taxpayer funded abortions and gender-selection abortions, which usually means aborting unborn females.
Most Democratic candidates backed that platform -- but not all.
Thus, it stunned some Democrats, especially in heartland and Bible Belt states, when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez drew another bright line defining who participates in the work of his party.
"Every Democrat, like every American," he said, "should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. This is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state." In fact, he added, "every candidate who runs as a Democrat" should affirm abortion rights.
Needless to say, these were fighting words for Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America.
"I am glad this conversation is taking place," she said, in a telephone interview earlier this week. It would help if the party's chairman "sat down and talked with us, because we are obviously feeling left out. ...
"Tom Perez needs to know that what he is saying isn't what lots of Democrats are thinking. It's not what Democrats are thinking in places like Nebraska -- places between the coasts where Democrats are trying to find candidates who are the right fit for their congressional districts or people to run for governor who fit their states."
Top Democrats also need -- after the brutal lessons of the 2016 campaign -- to take seriously the blunt reactions to Perez by major Catholic leaders, she said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for Democrats of all stripes to urge Perez to "recant this intolerant position." The party that for decades was the political home of urban, blue-collar and labor union Catholics "already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat -- indeed to be an American -- requires supporting that extreme agenda," said the New York archbishop, who chairs the U.S. Catholic bishops' Pro-Life Activities Committee.
A progressive Jesuit writer, Father James Martin, hailed Dolan's comments and, in another Twitter message, added: "Abortion is proving that the Democratic Party can outdo Republicans in self-destruction."
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput urgently linked the Perez statement with other hot-button issues in American politics -- compassion for refugees and immigrants.
"There's something irrational, something deeply contradictory, in (admirably) arguing for the rights of our nation's foreign newcomers while (wrongly) allowing -- and even sacralizing -- the systematic killing of a different kind of foreigner, the child in the womb, the newcomer to life itself," wrote Chaput.
The church teaches that immigrants, refugees and unborn children all have dignity and human rights that must be defended, he added, although the "difference today is, we don't recognize and applaud anyone's right to kill an immigrant."
Obviously, Day said, she knows Democratic Party leaders face pressures from activists and donors who are committed to an ironclad stance on abortion rights. However, she also noted a Pew Research Center survey showing that 30 percent of Democrats still believe that abortion should be illegal in most cases.
The question is whether it's still possible to find room for the beliefs of Bible Belt Democrats, African-American church leaders, Latino Catholics and others who, at the very least, want to see centrist policies that limit the number of abortions.
"The Democratic Party is pretty weak in large parts of America," said Day. "Can we really afford to push people away right now? I'm not sure that New York City and West Coast values are going to work with lots of voters in the heartland and down South. ...
"It's like no one is listening to each other. It's like there's no room for dialogue and compromise."