General Articles

Democrats and Republicans Update Party Platforms

by Sarah Grigsby-Reiser, Public Policy Fellow

Over the summer Republicans and Democrats held their quadrennial conventions to formally nominate their respective candidates for president and update their party platforms. The platforms outline the parties’ principles on a variety of policy topics, illustrating the differences in the two parties and their priorities for governing. The contrast between the parties’ positions is particularly stark on issues related to sex education and sexual health.

Specific reference to each party’s position on sex education is included in their respective platforms. The Republicans affirmed their commitment to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in their party platform:

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception.[1]

The Democrats, on the other hand, simply state that they “support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education.”[2]

Reproductive health also received particular focus in both parties’ platforms. The Democratic platform states the party’s opposition to “any and all efforts to weaken or undermine … a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.”[3] The Republican platform, by contrast, advocates amending the Constitution to ban abortion, with no exception in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the pregnant woman. Their platform also touts efforts to limit access to abortion care, such as bans on late-term abortions, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act(H.R. 3803), parental consent laws, mandatory waiting periods, and Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. 

The platforms also display the parties’ differing opinions on health care coverage and access. The Republican platform avows the party’s opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), which is commonly referred to as health care reform, claiming that: “Republican victories in the November elections will guarantee that it is never implemented. Congressional Republicans are committed to its repeal; and a Republican President, on the first day in office, will use his legitimate waiver authority under that law to halt its progress and then will sign its repeal.”[4] The Republican platform also condemns the law’s requirement that insurance plans provide full coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods. The Democratic platform touts the changes to the health care system that have taken place under health care reform, including “ending health insurance discrimination against women, and provides women with free access to preventive care, including prenatal screenings, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, breast-feeding supports, and contraception.”[5] The Democratic platform also demonstrated a commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy during the Obama administration, whereas the Republican platform mentions HIV/AIDS only in the context of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a global program initiated during the administration of President George W. Bush. 

Unlike its Republican counterpart, the Democratic platform includes a plank specifically devoted to women. It again affirms the party’s pledge to make contraceptives affordable for all women.  In addition, the platform expresses Democratic support for Planned Parenthood, which Republicans have repeatedly attempted to defund. The platform supports “reauthorizing and strengthening” the Violence Against Women Act(S. 1925), passage of which the Republicans have stalled in the House of Representatives.

Finally, in relation to sex education and sexual health, the Democratic platform emphasizes the party’s commitment to civil rights, particularly equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The document includes support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1397, S. 811), lauds the repealof the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and affirms the party’s commitment to “continue our work to prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth.”[6] For the first time, the platform endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples, calling for the “full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.”[7] Republicans, however, had four separate planks against same-sex marriage, including “reaffirm[ing] our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman” and criticizing judges who have rendered decisions supporting marriage equality.[8]

[1]“Republican Platform 2012,” (28 August 2012), accessed 19 September 2012,, 36.  

[2]  “Moving America Forward: 2012 Democratic National Platform,” (5 September 2012), accessed 19 September 2012,

[3]Ibid 18. 

[4]Ibid 32-33. 

[5]“Moving America Forward: 2012 Democratic National Platform,” 17. 

[6]“Moving America Forward: 2012 Democratic National Platform,” 17. 


[8]“Republican Platform 2012,” 10.