The End of Pro-Life Democrats

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
March 19, 2020

For the better part of the last four decades, the last name of the Congressman who represented the third district in Illinois was Lipinski. From 1982 – 2005, Bill Lipinski served and then in 2005, his son Dan Lipinski was elected. The Lipinski line, however, came to an end on Tuesday night, when the incumbent congressman lost the Democratic Primary.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination in the Illinois third will almost assuredly win the general election, which means that by every reasonable indication, Marie Newman will be the new congressperson for the district.

The importance of this race cannot be overstated. It represents a massive milestone in American political history—in particular, the history of the Democratic Party. With the elimination of Congressman Dan Lipinski, the Democratic Party is now almost entirely pro-abortion.

Indeed, Congressman Lipinski lost the nomination primarily over the issue of abortion. There were other issues, to be sure, that made him an unsettling candidate for national Democrats—he voted against Obamacare years ago. Notwithstanding some aspects of his record, Marie Newman ran a progressivist campaign backed by the standard bearer of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Newman also enjoyed the endorsement of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Emily’s List, a very powerful interest group within the Democratic Party that backs only avid supporters of abortion.

The victory of Marie Newman will mean that the third district of Illinois will have a new congressperson. It also means there will be a different composition to the next United States Congress.

But more than anything else, Tuesday’s primary is a graphic illustration of the political trajectories of both political parties in the United States—both Democrats and Republicans are moving towards their inherent logic.

The issue of abortion alone reveals the direction of each political party. There are virtually no pro-abortion Republicans, especially among the leadership. By the same token, there are almost no pro-life Democrats left at the national level (Lipinski’s defeat leaves only three Democratic Members of Congress who score even 25 percent on the National Right to Life Legislative Scorecard).

The issue of abortion had no major impact on American national elections until 1980—and the historical impetus of that shift was the historic Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, which legalized abortion on demand in all fifty states.

Pro-abortion advocates were absolutely convinced that the Supreme Court victory for their cause in 1973 would effectively end public argument and political debate over the issue of abortion. Of course, Roe not only failed to end debate but became a catalyst for both political parties. Indeed, rather than ending the debate, Roe v. Wade ignited a political and moral fuse that still explodes today.

The political faultiness, moreover, began to shift after the 1970s. Indeed, if you looked at the makeup of Congress in the 70s, there were many pro-choice Republicans as well as pro-life Democrats. What caused such an abrupt change?

The years between 1973 and 1980 made all the difference. The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter as President of the United States marked a pivotal development for the abortion debate. While President Carter, a Democrat, identified as an evangelical Christian, was also a social liberal. He said that he was personally pro-life but that he did not believe he should impose his own convictions when it came to law. That position was politically tenable in the politics of the 1970s, but not for long.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter faced Ronald Reagan, who made the pro-life position a central part of his political manifesto. Indeed, Reagan wrote a book that defended the sanctity of human life—a bold act in a tumultuous time. Though as Governor of California, Reagan had signed one of the most pro-abortion laws in American history, he later regretted that decision and felt guilty for having been part of enacting that bill into law. By the time he ran for president, he stood firmly for the pro-life position. Reagan set a precedent for the Republican Party—no standard bearer after him was anything but fully committed to the pro-life platform.

For the Democratic Party, however, the opposite logic took hold.

That logic became very clear in 1992 with the election of William Jefferson Clinton as President of the United States. President Clinton held a position slightly different from President Carter—he did not speak of abortion as morally wrong, but argued that it should be safe, legal, and rare.

The “safe, legal, and rare,” argument was even advocated by Hillary Clinton in her first run for President in 2008. In 2016, that language completely disappeared from Clinton’s vocabulary. The Democratic position on abortion evolved from legal but morally wrong, to legal but should be rare, to now a full and unequivocal advocacy for unfettered access to abortion, period. The 2016 national platform of the Democratic Party was radically pro-abortion, right down to demanding taxpayer funding for abortion throughout the nation. Clinton’s advocacy for abortion was a hallmark of her 2016 campaign and she pledged that she would only appoint judges to the federal courts and the Supreme Court who would pledge in advance to uphold Roe v. Wade.

Four years later, the Democratic Party has doubled down on its pro-abortion orthodoxy. It has and will continue to go to war with any state that dares to restrict or limit abortions—even laws that are designed to protect a woman’s health in the context of an abortion. The latest example of this is the Louisiana law now being adjudicated before the Supreme Court. The State of Louisiana passed legislation that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a hospital within thirty miles. That should be common sense health practice, but the Democratic Party has decided to sacrifice safe and rare in exchange for unrestricted access to abortion on demand.

From the Christian worldview, when we affirm the sanctity of all human life, it is virtually impossible to negotiate to what might be considered a moderate or mediating middle position on the issue of abortion. The pollsters tell us over and over again that Americans do not hold to an “extreme” position on abortion. But what exactly does that mean?

If it means anything, it means a lack of consistent thinking on the part of so many Americans who don’t think about the issue of abortion until, perhaps, they are answering the pollster’s question. Once, however, you begin to assess the moral reality of abortion, there is no possibility of a middle ground.

Indeed, Linda Greenhouse, contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and veteran reporter of the United States Supreme Court, wrote a recent article with the headline, “The Supreme Court’s Fictional Middle Ground on Abortion: There Is No Such Thing.” This is the only moment in which I found myself in complete agreement with Linda Greenhouse. There is no middle ground when it comes to abortion demanded as a right. It is entirely fictional.

The absence of a middle ground position was revealed on Tuesday when Dan Lipinski lost the Democratic Primary election for Illinois’s third Congressional District—he lost because of his stance on abortion and his opponents ran against his pro-life convictions. The Democratic Party has entrenched itself on the issue of abortion, stating unequivocally that failure to adhere to the pro-abortion orthodoxy disqualifies you from fellowship within its ranks.

The Democratic Party still claims to be the party of inclusion, welcoming a diversity of voices. That too, it seems, is fiction.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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