Is there a future for pro-life Democrats?

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., speaks during the annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 18, 2019. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., speaks during the annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 18, 2019. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A rift between establishment and progressive Democrats made national headlines on Sept. 17 when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, announced her support for Marie Newman—a challenger to Representative Daniel Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois, in the upcoming Third Congressional District primary. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was not the first high-profile Democrat to back Ms. Newman for the March 2020 primary; her candidacy was endorsed by presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Sept. 9.

Justice Democrats, the political insurgents who helped guide Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to a shocking primary victory over 10-term incumbent and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in June 2018, are also backing Ms. Newman.

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A member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005—occupying the seat held by his father, Bill Lipinski, for 22 years—Mr. Lipinski is no stranger to intraparty struggles. Described by Politico and The New York Times as a conservative Democrat (The Hill calls him “centrist”), Mr. Lipinski has often found himself at odds with his party colleagues. The Chicago-born congressman voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and opted not to endorse Barack Obama for re-election in 2012.

As a pro-life Democrat, Mr. Lipinski is a member of an endangered species in U.S. politics.

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But according to Mr. Lipinski, the Democratic opposition to him is laser-focused on one subject: his views on abortion.

As a pro-life Democrat, Mr. Lipinski is a member of an endangered species in U.S. politics. According to a 2018 Politico article, the Democrats for Life of America, a national political action group that calls itself “the pro-life voice and wing of the Democratic Party,” once boasted of a coalition of 43 House Democrats. But by 2018, nearly two decades after its establishment, the D.F.L.A. endorsed only four House and three Senate candidates.

Kristin Day, executive director of the D.F.L.A., said the national focus on this Illinois congressional race is “all about abortion.”

“It has nothing to do with Dan’s record.”

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While Ms. Warren explicitly cited the issue of “reproductive rights” in her endorsement of Ms. Newman, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez issued a broader criticism of Mr. Lipinski’s Democratic bona fides. “The fact that a deep blue seat is advocating for many parts of the Republican agenda is extremely problematic,” she told The New York Times.

“[Ms. Ocasio-Cortez] should be more concerned about her own district,” said Ms. Day, objecting to the freshman congresswoman’s “very far-left views.”

Jacob Lupfer, an independent political consultant who has attended two national D.F.L.A. conferences, is uncertain how much Ms. Ocasio-Cortez can influence the race in Illinois. Mr. Lupfer is a strategist for the Pro-life Democratic Candidate PAC. “I doubt Chicagoans are looking to a freshman New York congresswoman for voting advice,” Mr. Lupfer told America via email.

The race asks a broader question: Is there a future for pro-life politicians within the Democratic Party? On Sept. 18, Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland (D.-Md.), the House Majority leader, told journalists that his party remained open to anti-abortion lawmakers. However, a recent analysis by Fordham University ethicist Charles Camosy suggests dismal prospects for candidates like Mr. Lipinski. Mr. Camosy noted in a column for Religion News Service, “The evisceration of pro-life Democrats from Congress is all but complete.”

The race asks a broader question: Is there a future for pro-life politicians within the Democratic Party?

In a 2019 Pew Research Poll, 82 percent of Democrats and those who leaned Democratic said that “abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” Among liberal Democrats, support for legal abortion in all or most cases jumped to 91 percent. In May, the New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin simply asked: “Can a Democrat Oppose Abortion?”

Mr. Lipinski thinks so, rejecting any claim that he is out of step with his party. “I’m a Democrat. I plan to remain a Democrat. I certainly question this era of President Trump,” he told America. Mr. Lipinski noted that he shares his party’s focus on combating climate change and enjoys a high rating from the AFL-CIO labor union. He has also earned an A rating from the National Education Association.

At the same time, he has criticized Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for “her more extreme views” and called her Green New Deal proposal “a plan for socialism.” He views his challenger, Ms. Newman, in a similar light.

“Marie Newman now has thoroughly embraced extreme, radical positions that will not play well in the Third District,” he said.

While her success with Third District voters remains to be seen, Ms. Newman has secured the backing of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.

“We should not have to ask our elected officials to trust women,” wrote Ben Hardin, campaign manager for Ms. Newman, in a statement to America. “Marie Newman firmly believes that everyone in Illinois’ Third District should have access to the medical care they and their doctor—not Congressman Lipinski—choose.”

Top Democrats have made clear their support for abortion access, while pro-life Democrats continue to fade from Washington.

Ms. Day also does not support her party’s progressive drift. “I think on a national level [the party] is moving in the wrong direction,” she said, arguing that its views on abortion rights may cost it the support of moderate Democrats in swing states.

Top Democrats have made clear their support for abortion access, while pro-life Democrats continue to fade from Washington. “The suggestion is [that being pro-life] is enough to disqualify you as a Democrat,” said Mr. Lipinski.

Ms. Day proposes campaign finance reform and reining in corporate influence on politics—not a quick and easy fix—as a way to throw a lifeline to pro-life candidates. The party, in her assessment, has become too dependent on “all the money the abortion lobby’s putting in.”

Mr. Lupfer sees another way forward. “The pro-life political groups will spend millions supporting Trump-disciple Republicans in the closest and most expensive House races,” he said. “It is an unconscionable waste of donors’ money, and it will fail. A far more effective and efficient strategy would be to take a page from the playbook of [Ms. Ocasio-Cortez] and the Justice Democrats: Compete in primaries, not general elections.”

In January, the Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson called out the “Trumpification of the pro-life movement,” noting that anti-abortion organizations like the March for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List “have featured Trump at major gatherings.” The alignment of pro-life voters with the Republican Party makes them a difficult, perhaps impossible, ally to the D.F.L.A. and Democratic candidates like Mr. Lipinski.

“The pro-life movement has destroyed the pro-life Democrat,” said Mr. Lupfer.

Calling the preponderance of funds flowing from pro-life donors to Republican candidates “a bad strategy,” Mr. Lupfer added, “The working relationship between the Democratic Party and the D.F.L.A. has diminished, and that’s a shame.”

But the D.F.L.A., like Mr. Lipinski, is not about to ditch its “Democratic” label. “We are Democrats, so we do believe there is a government responsibility to support those who need assistance,” said Ms. Day. She describes the D.F.L.A. platform as “whole life,” including support for paid maternity leave and objection to the death penalty and euthanasia.

The result of Mr. Lipinski’s race could suggest if that is a message still willing to be heard in the contemporary Democratic Party.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michael Burke
2 months 1 week ago

Image of God, yes but for the unbeliever, pure reason says " what else is it but a baby" - Kierkegaard long ago showed this to be true. those who deny r simply
hostage to sin.

Deborah Wells
2 months 1 week ago

Well, I would say that all the people opposed to gun control (politically, Republicans), do say “I’m personally opposed to killing 6-year-old children, but.”

Lloyd William
2 months 1 week ago

A very likely overly broad brush but agree some who oppose sensible gun control are insensitive to the violence such lack of control brings. While this insensitivity is wrong, it should not be used to excuse those who don’t respect the sacredness of life from the very beginning

Michael Bindner
2 months 1 week ago

Biology states Gastrulation is more important than conception. Check Wiki for the references. The authoritative book is The Triumph if the Embryo.

The question for rights is about state power. The right to life in the Constitution is protection against execution without a fair trial. It is why pregnant women cannot be executed. Mot being murdered is a positive right granted by government. It cannot be granted outside the constitutional order.

karen oconnell
2 months 1 week ago

first of all, please (everybody!!!) please stop referring to these people as ''pro-life.'' they are not! they are anti-abortion. period. unfortunately, the issue of abortion has been pushed violently into its opposing corners and we only hear about the 'no abortion ever' vs the 'yes to abortion always.. and there we are, unable to move. fact is that most 'thinking people' understand that, following the concept of ''greater good, there has to be a place for abortion ....somewhere. pro-aborts are ahead of the game as they are talking on behalf of a 'real thinking, loving, hurting ' woman, family etc,. not an initially microscopic pre-person. there is a role for the procedure; we can tie ourselves personally to the 'no abortion never' if we want to do so and ---at the same time that we can leave room other solutions on behalf of the good women and families who are suffering. (( it sort of amazes me to see the enormous extent of concern and $$$$ spent on behalf of a child unseen, and in utero.......... and the utter disrespect so many of these same offer to the children, men and women who surround us. so called ''pro-lifers'' and their leaders are really your own and our pre-born worst enemy.

Michael Bindner
2 months 1 week ago

Abortion is more a barometer than a real issue. Most pro-life Democrats add a social justice component and soft pedal criminality. His views likely mirror his constituents, although he should lead on the GND, which includes family subsidies that will reduce abortion. This is the only way and the question if criminality may be off the table soon.

In June v. Gee, the Center for Reproductive Rights is representing June Reproductive Health Services in applying for Certiorari to overturn the 5th Circuit in upholding the Louisiana Trap Laws.

The Court can hear the case (possibly reopening Roe), deny Certiorari (leaving Trap in place and maybe overturning Roe by opening the door for state government power) or reverse the Circuit and repeal the state law.

There are 3 questions at play in June v. Gee. Can the 5th Circuit decision stand as is? Are there new arguments on the issue? Does the Court want to hear them?

2 new Justices is not the answer. If you think it is, you do not understand the Court or law in general.

A per Curiam ruling reversing the 5th Citcuit signals the Circuit to pass on hearing any appeal to the inevitable overturn of the Alabama Abortion Law. For all intents and purposes, this will end the pro-life movement as a Republican entity. We will know October 7th. The only way forward for the movement would be massive subsidies for all families with children as part of tax reform. That takes joining the Democrats to pass.

The pro-life movement's goal is a human life amendment, which would have to explicitly exempt privacy and due process rights in cases of abortion while casting aside the GOP state power goal on such issues as marriage equality, unless this issue is included too. The method to do so is GOP majorities in 38 state legislatures and a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. Sorry, but the Church must not prostitute itself to the GOP. Indeed, if it does not dump Trump soon, it will no longer exist.

Thomaspj Poovathinkal
2 months 1 week ago

A pro Abortion Man or Woman is DESTROYING many innocent lives in the Wombs of UNTHINKING and inorant, pregnant women together with JESUS, the Son of God, for HE it is who said, "Whatever you do to the LEAST of my brothers, you are doing it to me." The same thing HE implied when he said to Saul the Persecutor, " Saul, Saul, WHY does thou persecute ME?"; Saul was then on his way to Damascus to KILL the Christians there.

J Jones
2 months 1 week ago

This is naked propaganda. The writer is very young, having just graduated with a minor in journalism from Fordham so I willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that propaganda was not his intention. But propaganda it is. Nowhere in this article does the author present a single quote, fact, citation or any other piece of information which links US Representative Ocasio Cortez to the issue announced by the headline. And yet the author returns to her again and again. He starts the article focused on her and he ends the article focused on her. He explicitly acknowledges mid-piece that Representative Ocasio-Cortez's stated public objections to Dan Lipinski address a broad range of issues and, even there, the author does not offer any evidence that Lipinski's anti-abortion position is one of those issues.

I am guessing the author did
not get a response from US Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez because she and her campaign recognized that this piece is anti-abortion propaganda in which Rep. AOC is explicitly is positioned as the lightning rod despite an absolute lack of a factual basis for positioning her in this way. There is an agenda here: rally support for Lipinski by incensing the anti-AOC forces on his behalf.

Does the O'Hare Fellowship seek to take fine young writers and turn them into propagandists?

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

"Ocasio-Cortez is viewed extremely favorably among Democrats: 47 percent view her favorably and 7 percent view her unfavorably ..." ... https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/28/18285533/aoc-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-poll-favorables-media
But Republicans see AOC as an uppity woman who is unapologetic about her liberal policies, and they hate that. They try to cut her down to size with stuff like Photoshopped images of her being raped. That won't defeat her or her supporters. She's a smart, well-informed, dedicated Representative who has a great career ahead of her ... maybe someday president :)

Ryan DiCorpo
2 months 1 week ago

This article was written after Rep. Ocasio-Cortez announced her support for Ms. Newman. The New York Times article on that story is linked to twice. Nowhere in the headline for this piece does Rep. Ocasio-Cortez appear. She did not respond to comment out of her own decision; she read none of the piece prior to publication. Further, this article (and its 21 distinct sources) is about the decrease in pro-life Democrats over the years. It is not about Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. This is news. 

J Jones
2 months 1 week ago

I trust that your intention was to write a news story, and I agree with you that the question in your headline is newsworthy. As I said in my last comment, you are a fine writer. This still reads like propaganda. I wonder if your editor questioned why you remained so focused on Ocasio-Cortez, to the extent that you believed it important to note that she had been given the opportunity to comment.

I apologize for the assumption that Representative Ocasio Cortez and her aides have seen the article prior to publication. I am curious to know what she and/or her aides were asked to comment on.

Nonetheless, at no point in this article do you succeed in creating a link between your headline and Rep Ocasio Cortez, with whom you start your article and with whom you end your article, mentioning her in a total of nine paragraphs. She was such a prominent focus of your article on whether there is room for anti-abortion Democratic candidates that you believed it important to note that you had sought comment from her before you published this piece. (Given your laser focus on her, to borrow Rep Lipinski's language, and the absolute lack of any information linking Ocasio-Cortez to the question in your headline, I think you were correct in your judgment that fairness required you seek comment from Rep Ocasio Cortez prior to publishing this P
piece. As I said, I think you are a fine writer.)

The NYTimes article at no point addresses abortion and at no point creates a link between Ocasio Cortez, this candidate and abortion (in fact, though I have not done a digital word search, I do not see the word abortion in the NYTimes article).

As I stated in my original comment, I do not believe your intention was to write propaganda. But that is what you have written: by the way you have positioned Rep Ocasio Cortez, you have positioned Ocasio-Cortez as the lightning rod for an argument about which you failed to create any connection to her.

Again, I wonder if your editor questioned why you persisted in your focus on her, to the extent that you believed it important to note that she had been given the opportunity to comment.

Kathleen Carpenter
2 months 1 week ago

The question should be what is meant by pro-life? It seems that the same people who fight tooth and nail against abortion (mainly men) take us to war, fight against gun control, cut assistance to feed, educate and clothe those children and often poor mothers. How about a mother with a dead fetus who is forced to carry a dead baby to term? What about women forced into abortion by the fathers? I am not pro abortion, but forbidding abortion will drive women to quacks and back rooms where they will die. Is that pro life? This is not a black and white question. There are health and well being many issues in between.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

Here's a comment I made from another thread - The commenters here who say that pro life is more than abortion are talking nonsense. Yes, it is more than abortion. But I have not seen one yet who can defend their assertions about what additional is pro life. All they do is assert as if their positions are obvious, pat themselves on the back as being better human beings and then say Republicans are mean and not really pro life after birth. Their positions are spurious as they ignore the incredible harm they endorse or potential harm they endorse.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 1 week ago

I would really like a polite discussion if anyone wants to. Maybe Mr. Di Corpo would be interested.

Tim O'Leary
2 months 1 week ago

Kathleen - in almost every poll, women are more pro-life than men. More women than men are pro-life activists. In fact, the leaders of the pro-life movements are disproportionately women, beginning with the suffragettes. look up the Susan B. Anthony List and see their leadership.

Judith Jordan
2 months ago

Tim O'Leary--
The money (power) for the pro-birth movement mostly comes from men. The overwhelming number of religions who are pro-birth are run by men. The overwhelming number of religions that support pro-birth are patriarchal. Women may have the numbers (I really don’t know) in the movement, but much of the money, power, and leadership come from men.

Many women had also opposed the right for women to vote. That hardly made their position correct. However, it is irrelevant if it is more men or women who support pro-birth. The issues remain the same.

Rhett Segall
2 months 1 week ago

Each of us should ask these three questions: 1) When did I begin? 2)When did others begin? 3) How should this affect my attitude towards the unborn?

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

If the question is whether pro-life candidates have a place in the Democratic party, then the answer is "not really" because a pro-life stance is antithetical to the Democratic stance on women's rights. Imagine a Republican candidate who ran as pro-choice ... how would that fly in the Republican party?

J Jones
2 months 1 week ago

Crystal, there are some prochoice Republicans in Congress. But the number is small and getting smaller. Very interesting 2018 article here: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/06/pro-choice-republicans-in-congress-are-nearly-extinct.html

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

Right - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkpwsky - I had forgotten about them.

Nora Bolcon
2 months 1 week ago

Yet didn't Susan Collins give her OK to Justice Kavanaugh?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 1 week ago

Nora
Susan Collins did give her OK ...and she based it on a sound analysis of the facts...alleged vs substantiated. And she quite properly presented the appropriate legal and ethical rules guiding her decision. It was a brilliant and thoughtful put down

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

Kavanaugh was obviously guilty of sexual misconduct. Collins took the easy way out instead of doing the right thing.

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

Nora, yes. Susan Collins has been shown to be a completely irresponsible supporter of women's rights - hence the Democratic challenges launched against her seat now.

J Jones
2 months 1 week ago

Agreed, Crystal.

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 1 week ago

There is a difference between having a “pro-life” moral position and having a “pro-life” political position. In the former one holds to the position that abortion cannot be effected for any reason in one’s own personal life. In the latter one holds the position that the government has the right to enforce prohibitions on abortion in spite of the personal beliefs and preferences of citizens.

The issue for many is not abortion. On that most are settled in their decision. Living in a culturally, racially, ethnically, religiously, ethically, and morally diverse nation, on what issues do we have the rights to impose our personal moral positions on the political decisions?

J Jones
2 months 1 week ago

Very interesting take on this, Vincent.

Nora Bolcon
2 months 1 week ago

Politically, the question should not be do I agree with abortion morally or not, but do I believe the right and just answer to abortion, even if I believe it is immoral, is to make laws prohibiting abortion?

I think adultery is horrible but I don't believe it should be a crime because that is not a constructive way to prevent adultery in our society.

Globally, restrictive abortion laws have always resulted in greater numbers of abortion so morally the only right choice is not to restrict the practice, by law, in order to keep the rate of abortion down.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 1 week ago

Nora
As usual, your last paragraph is a total unjustifiable contortion of the statistical information produced by the Guttmacher institute in order to create a “moral reason to support abortion” .
You constantly and intentionally confuse the concepts and principles of “correlation” and “causation” . You simply ignore that these approaches require an identification of and the ability to control variables which is patently impossible when dealing with the variations in the laws and regulations of the countries whose abortion statistics you reference not to mention their multiple cultural differences and access to birth control. If your argument were even colorably tenable, Guttmacher would itself have offered it long ago as would Planned Parenthood. Even they did not have temerity to do so!!

Nora Bolcon
2 months 1 week ago

I have no idea what you are talking about Stu.

Guttenmacher and The World Health Organization have stated that restrictive abortion laws lead to greater amounts of abortion based on global stats. That is where I got my information, along with researching the stats on abortion from many of the online national sites which gave same data as the W.H.O. and Guttmacher:

From Guttmacher: Abortion and Birth Control Stats.

REGIONAL INCIDENCE AND TRENDS:

• The highest annual rate of abortion in 2010–2014 was in the Caribbean, estimated at 59 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, followed by South America, at 48.

The lowest rates were in Northern America, at 17, and Western and Northern Europe—at 16 and 18, respectively.

• Across regions, Eastern Europe experienced the largest decline in the abortion rate, from 88 in 1990–1994 to 42 in 2010–2014. Despite this decline, there is a persistent gap in rates between Eastern and Western Europe (42 vs. 16) likely reflecting lower use of effective, modern contraceptive methods in Eastern Europe.

• The overall abortion rate in Africa was 34 per 1,000 women in 2010–2014. Subregional rates ranged from 31 in Western Africa to 38 in Northern Africa. There has been little if any change in abortion rates in these subregions since 1990–1994.

• For Latin America, subregional abortion rates range from 33 in Central America to 48 in South America. Rates have increased slightly since 1990–1994, but not by statistically significant amounts.

• Abortion rates in Asia have also fallen since 1990–1994, although not significantly. Asia’s subregions all have rates close to the regional average of 36 per 1,000 women.

• Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. When countries are grouped according to the grounds under which the procedure is legal, the rate is 37 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age where it is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save a woman’s life, compared with 34 per 1,000 where it is available on request, a non-significant difference. **** (This is A causal statement showing greater numbers of abortion occur where abortion is a crime or difficult to access, even in countries with easy access to birth control, but it is also showing these laws are not the greatest cause. The greatest cause is lack of birth control access. However, combined with restrictive abortion laws, that lack of birth control access leads to the greatest abortion rates in countries around the world.)

• High levels of unmet need for contraception help explain the prevalence of abortion in countries with restrictive abortion laws. ********* (This is A Causal statement stating lack of birth control access is greatest cause of high abortion rates)

Jim Lein
2 months ago

We all have to agree abortion is a unique activity, or crime, as pro-lifers see it. Very few pro-lifers are for executing the woman who aborts or for putting her in prison. Even fewer see the man responsible for the problem/unwanted pregnancy as an accomplice who should be jailed or executed. Our legal system can't effectively deal with abortion. We need a more humane and Christian way, such as more supports for women with problem pregnancies that usually include the man causing the pregnancy who is not supportive or who may be among those pressuring her to abort.

Crystal Watson
2 months 1 week ago

I agree, Nora. This makes the Trump administration's Mexico City policy (global gag rile) so harmful.

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