Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress, has questioned the commitment of some pro-life groups to bipartisanship in the movement to end abortion.
“I’ve gotten some support from pro-life groups, but honestly, not as much as I’d like to see,” Lipinski told CNA in an interview on Thursday.
“I am not someone who’s a big self-promoter but, look, I have put myself on the line in a more difficult political situation than almost any other pro-life member of Congress,” Lipinski said.
Lipinski is an eight-term pro-life Catholic congressman now fighting for his re-election in Illinois’ third congressional district, in the suburbs of Chicago. The district is safely Democratic, but this election cycle marks the second straight challenge Lipinski has seen in the primary.
In the 2018 Democratic primary, his opponent Marie Newman raised more than $1.4 million while making Lipinski’s pro-life support a focal point of her campign. A significant amount of outside money went into the race, and Lipinski barely held her off with a slim 2,145-vote margin. Buoyed by her strong challenge, Newman promptly announced her intent to run again in 2020.
“Some people in the pro-life movement do not seem to believe it’s that important to protect pro-life Democrats. And I think you just have to look at what the other side is doing, see the value that they place on defeating someone like me,” Lipinski said.
Actively pro-abortion groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood have lined up in support of Newman.
Lipinski had to dig deep to survive the 2018 primary, raising more than $1.5 million and spending almost $2.4 million. Although he has not had to spend as much this election cycle, Newman’s campaign presents another stiff challenge just two years after the last one.
Democrats who carry the pro-life mantle are few and far between. Lipinski was one of only seven candidates for the House or Senate endorsed by the group Democrats for Life in the 2018 elections.
The re-election of John Bel Edwards—Louisiana’s governor who signed a “heartbeat” bill into law in an election year—was seen as a boost to hopes that more such Democrats could win in red or purple states.
Yet in a presidential election year, the top candidates have issued a stern challenge to the party’s voters—stand behind abortion access.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called abortion rights “human rights” and “economic rights” at a November debate; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the same debate called on American men to support abortion, saying that “if there’s ever a time in American history where the men of this country must stand with the women, this is the moment.”
Joe Biden, meanwhile, reversed his longstanding support of the Hyde Amendment and now supports taxpayer-funded abortion. Pete Buttigieg has said that decision to have an abortion, even until birth, is up to the woman.
As Lipinski told CNA on Wednesday, he has not seen the support he has desired from pro-life groups and individuals while he faces one of his toughest re-elections yet.
While Democratic party leaders have acknowledged the possibility of pro-life Democrats—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Mary.) said in September that “Absolutely there's room in our party” for pro-life members— and some of Lipinski’s colleagues refuse to undermine him, others in the party, including progressive Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have openly or quietly supported Newman’s campaign.
“So it disappoints me at times, when people say that they’re not going to support me,” Lipinski said of pro-life voters.
The congressman gave the example of his vote to impeach President Donald Trump in December as a possible sticking point with some in the movement.
“I think that [vote] should have nothing whatsoever to do with supporting a pro-life candidate,” he said.
The day the House voted to impeach President Trump, the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List issued an indictment of the vote and said it “will be a huge political liability for House members going into 2020.”
But the pro-life movement needs both parties to thrive moving forward, Lipinski said.
“I think that if the pro-life movement is going to be confined to one party, it would be even more difficult to ever get anything done to protect life,” he said.
“It will be easier for the Republican Party to take pro-life voters for granted—even easier than it is right now.”
Lipinski will not be attending the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., as the House will not be in session that week. He said he will be campaigning in his district with the primary approaching on March 17.
However, Lipinski will address the Chicago March for Life this Saturday, and will speak at a pro-life dinner around that march as well.