Rep. Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.), a pro-life Democrat, said Saturday that he did not show up for his planned appearance at the March For Life rally on Friday because he could not share a stage with President Donald Trump.
As one of the few pro-life Democrats in Congress, Lipinski was scheduled to be a featured speaker at the annual pro-life march in Washington, D.C.
Lipinski’s decision to not show up followed criticism from two of his fellow party members who on Wednesday endorsed his primary opponent Marie Newman, citing his views on abortion as their reason, BuzzFeed News reported.
The congressman officially cited Trump's decision to speak as reason for why he did not attend. In a statement to BuzzFeed, the congressman said he did not trust Trump and therefore did not feel comfortable speaking at the March, which he has attended in the past.
"I have been critical of many things the President has said that have been offensive to the dignity of many individuals and groups. Unfortunately, no one knows what the President may say at any time," Lipinski said in his statement. "Knowing this, I chose not to speak at the Washington March for Life because I did not want to put myself in a potentially morally compromised situation."
Lipinski did attend the Chicago March For Life the weekend prior, which was before his colleagues made the announcement they would be supporting his primary opponent.
Before the march, Lipinski made no announcement of his plans to skip out, and BuzzFeed notes that many of the March For Life organizers even seemed unaware of Lipinski’s decision not to speak.
President of March for Life Action, Tom McClusky, told BuzzFeed that having a pro-life Democrat as part of the March For Life speaker line-up is important to the organization, and the organizers attempt to get at least one Democrat to speak at the event each year.
"I understand why appearing with the opposition party right now would make him feel uncomfortable," McClusky said Friday. He also noted that while Lipinski was a top-billed speakers on their list, whether or not the Democrat would join the march had been the subject of an "ongoing discussion."
Two days before the march, Democratic Illinois Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky held a press conference alongside Newman where they endorsed her run for Lipinski’s seat.
"The people of Illinois' third district want a pro-healthcare, pro-immigrant, pro-woman, pro-LGBTQ member of Congress to represent them in Washington. Unfortunately, the current member does not reflect those values, which is why I am endorsing Marie Newman for Congress," Schakowsky said.
The president of Democrats for Life, Kristen Day, told BuzzFeed that pushing out the pro-life Democrat could be a step in the wrong direction for the party.
"If they push him out, it will be very detrimental to the Democratic party," Day said. "We need to be strategic about this."
After the 2016 elections, Democrats have debated whether the party should be more open to socially conservative Democratic candidates to gain back the majority in Congress.
Gutierrez and Schakowsky’s Wednesday announcement, which made it clear they are going to stay loyal to pro-abortion rights, may heighten the debate between a party already struggling with messaging.