Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) testifies before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 20, 2007 / Alex Wong/Getty Images
Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).
Pro-life Americans must do more to support embattled pro-life Democrats, said a Catholic former Democratic congressman.
Dan Lipinski is a Catholic eight-term congressman from Illinois who was ousted in a 2020 primary challenge by pro-abortion Marie Newman. He told CNA this week that support from pro-life groups in his primary fight was no match for an avalanche of pro-abortion spending against him.
“I was happy to see some support from pro-life groups, but the amount of money that came in from the other side certainly dwarfed anything that came in, support-wise, from pro-life groups,” Lipinski told CNA in an interview.
Pro-abortion political groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood Votes, and WOMEN VOTE! all predictably teamed up against Lipinski in the primary race, highlighting his pro-life voting record.
These groups “have a lot of power within the Democratic Party,” he noted. “I was one vote out of 435 in the U.S. House, and the pro-choice groups found that I was so important to spend easily over $5 million against me to get rid of me,” he said, “because they didn’t want even one pro-life voice in the party, and they saw a danger in that.”
“I think that the pro-life groups need to wake up and do more to support pro-life Democrats,” he said.
Lipinski was recognized as one of the last consistently pro-life Democrats in the House before he was defeated in 2020. He told CNA that pro-life Democrats still exist in state legislatures, and that he knows pro-life candidates who are running for the U.S. Congress as Democrats. Lipinski himself is reportedly considering a rematch with Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), according to a Crain’s Chicago Business report from last week.
CNA spoke with Lipinski about the current political situation, including how Catholics ought to approach politics, the possibility of a post-Roe America, and threat of increased taxpayer funding of abortion.
Not only pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood opposed Lipinski on the life issue in 2020, but also groups focused on other issues such as education, labor, and the environment.
Just weeks before the primary election in 2020, SEIU and the Illinois Federation of Teachers joined Planned Parenthood Votes, NARAL, and other groups to invest $1.4 million in direct mail and digital media campaigns highlighting Lipinski’s opposition to abortion.
Lipinski had a 91% lifetime rating with the pro-environment League of Conservation Voters, yet he said the group supported Newman because of his own pro-life record.
“And because I’m pro-life, they not only endorsed my opponent, but they spent some money sending mailers out to Democratic voters in the district for her,” he said.
“These groups are becoming very intertwined,” he said of various issue groups uniting in support of pro-abortion candidates. “Look, these groups aren’t really honest sometimes in what they really do care about.”
Although Lipinski’s race with Newman focused on the abortion issue, Newman also attacked him for not supporting policies championed by progressive activists, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Lipinski had previously opposed the Equality Act, a pro-LGBT bill opposed by the U.S. bishops’ conference, before he voted for a version of it in 2019. Newman, who has a child identifying as transgender, had attacked Lipinski for his previous opposition to the legislation.
In an April 2021 interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Lipinski called on Catholic public officials – including President Joe Biden – to “be different. We shouldn’t just be Democrats, Republicans, and follow the party line.”
This applies to Catholic and pro-life voters, too, he told CNA. He warned of the trap of “sectarian partisanship,” where voters choose a political party and take all the policy positions supported by that party – whether or not they have fully considered them.
“And this is really dangerous for Catholics, because Catholics don’t fit neatly into either [political] side,” he said.
“It’s a problem for the Catholic Church right now, this divide,” he said, noting that political divisions among Catholics intensified after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
“We can’t demonize others, we cannot view others as evil. That goes against everything that Jesus taught us,” he said.
Many pro-life groups support Republicans, arguing that they are “the pro-life party,” he noted.
“I understand that, that general feeling, but I think it’s important to be able to look out for the pro-life Democratic candidates and support them, and understand the importance of having pro-life voices in the Democratic Party.”
A current priority of pro-abortion groups is the repeal of the Hyde amendment and similar policies, which prohibit federal funding of abortion in a number of programs including Medicaid. Appropriations bills that passed the House this summer excluded the Hyde amendment, and a bill introduced Monday in a Senate committee also excluded the policy.
“The Hyde amendment is an acknowledgement that even people who consider themselves to be pro-choice, many of them have a problem with abortion,” Lipinski said of bans on taxpayer-funded abortion.
Pro-abortion groups “just want to get rid of that idea,” he said, pointing to the development of the Democratic Party platforms as an example. While the 1996, 2000, and 2004 platforms called for abortion to be “rare” or “more rare,” the platforms subsequently dropped that language. The 2016 and 2020 platforms called for taxpayer-funded abortion.
The Supreme Court this fall will hear arguments in a major abortion case that legal experts say could result in the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Pro-life advocates must prepare for a society where Roe is overturned, Lipinski emphasized, as “there’s going to be a lot more work for people who are pro-life for them to do, and we need to be preparing for that right now.”