Rep. Dan Lipinski's (D., Ill.) narrow loss in Tuesday's Democratic primary in a race that centered largely on his pro-life views was a mark of progressive success in stamping out dissent on abortion in the Democratic Party.
Lipinski, who has represented Illinois's Third Congressional District for 15 years, lost to progressive challenger Marie Newman, who had the support of national abortion groups. Lipinski is one of just four remaining pro-life Democrats in the House, and Newman vigorously attacked his views, saying he is not a "Real Democrat." Abortion giants Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and EMILY’s List spent more than $1.5 million to boost her campaign.
Lipinski's loss comes as Democratic leaders act increasingly hostile toward the party's pro-lifers. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) called support for abortion "an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat" in June, and the party's presidential frontrunner Joe Biden reversed his position on federal funding for abortion under heavy pressure from the same groups that pushed Newman to victory. The party platform has shifted away from former president Bill Clinton's "safe, legal, and rare" position to full-throated support of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.
Democrats risk alienating millions of voters, according to Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
"Extremist party leaders are determined to stamp out any pro-life voice within the party in pursuing an agenda of abortion on demand through birth, paid for by taxpayers, and even infanticide," Dannenfelser said in a statement. "This radical platform—to which Democrat candidates are called to religiously adhere—deeply offends mainstream American values and alienates millions of pro-life voters, even among rank-and-file Democrats."
Democrats' leftward lurch on abortion could jeopardize their bid to take back the White House this year, American Principles Project executive director Terry Schilling said.
"There is no room in the Democratic Party for anyone who believes that abortion should be rare, only room for those who support abortion on demand, without apology, before or after birth, and paid for with your tax dollars," he said. "This radical shift has been happening for some time and it’s why Democrats are losing ground in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and why they will lose the presidency in 2020."
The result marks a much-needed win for Justice Democrats, the same group that fueled Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D., N.Y.) 2018 upset victory. Just 7 of 79 candidates endorsed by Justice Democrats went on to win general elections in 2018, and Jessica Cisneros, the group’s hand-picked candidate to challenge pro-life Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), lost by 4 points in the Texas primary two weeks ago.
In 2018 Newman narrowly lost to Lipinski. On Tuesday, she benefited from intense national attention, landing the support of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), and Sanders, as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), Ro Khanna (D., Calif.), and Ocasio-Cortez, in addition to Justice Democrats and major abortion groups. The onslaught of support from outside Illinois helped Newman outraise Lipinski by more than $400,000.
Illinois's primary was marked by low turnout due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that the state’s primary would go forward as planned, calling it "the right thing to do." Though he promised polling places would be stocked with sanitation supplies, poll workers reported a lack of both sanitary products and voting materials. State officials in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, and Maryland recently postponed their primaries due to the virus.